I chose my seat with care.  It was at least twenty metres from the door through which the passengers would arrive. It was also slightly elevated.  This way I could study each arrival well.  I had no earthly idea what this doctor person looked like.  He’d been very vague in his self description.  “Medium height.  Medium build.  Medium brown hair.”  I’d be looking for Mr Medium.

It was the afternoon of Thursday, October 15th. He was booked to leave San Francisco on Monday morning. We’d have three entire days to explore the Bay Area. And I’d done the unimaginable.  I’d taken a day’s leave for Friday.  Me, who still came to work when I had raging temperatures or croup-like coughs.  The one teacher who had three years of perfect attendance.  I’d arranged a substitute for my precious class, left enough work for three days, closed the classroom door and didn’t look back.

The airplane was taxi-ing up to the gate. By this time there were far more people shuffling around. I stood so that I could see better.  A trickle at first, then a flood of people came through the door, pushing, jostling, each looking for a familiar face.  Most found the eyes they sought before they got to me.  Loud greetings and cheerful reunions blocked my view for moments at a time, but they soon moved off with the flow like so much debris carried down the river.  I studied each individual intently.  Too tall.  Wrong gender.  Too short.  Too old.  Too wide.

Slowly the torrent abated and became again a dribble.  Had he missed his flight?  Had he been carried away in the deluge?  My mind began imagining all sorts of scenarios.  A riot of different thoughts went off like so many firecrackers in my head. Must I go home and wait for a call?  How would I spend my one precious day off?  Would I have to come back to the airport later?  Did I have the right date?  Was this all a figment of my imagination?

And then, just when I was about to turn away, there he was, the last one off the plane.  Medium height, medium build, medium brown hair.  His eyes found mine immediately and we smiled across the room.  We walked toward each other.  Neither of us broke eye contact.  Maybe we were afraid that the other might disappear if we looked away.

“Welcome to San Francisco,” I bubbled.  Perhaps because I had just seen countless people receive their loved ones with a warm embrace, or maybe because I was so relieved that he’d actually arrived, or possibly I was just so nervous I didn’t know what to do, I put my arms around him and gave him a small hug.  A little voice in my head screamed, “What are you doing?  How incredibly forward of you!  You’ve probably embarrassed the man to death!”  Fortunately he gave a brief squeeze back and, if he felt uncomfortable, gave no outward sign of it.

“Hello, Loreen,” his eyes twinkled as he stepped back to deliver a proper greeting.

“Hello, Kevin!” I smiled back.  As we walked through the airport to my car I asked him about his flight and his journey so far.  He related news of our mutual friend and shared highlights of his travels as we drove to The City.  I would interrupt him from time-to-time to point out little landmarks.  I explained that we would go directly to church for the Thursday night Fellowship/Bible Study where I would introduce him to the people with whom he’d be staying.  “Are you hungry?” I asked.  It was almost dinner time and we had nearly an hour and a half before Fellowship.

We grabbed some turkey sandwiches (on famous sour dough) from a corner deli in the Sunset District and then I drove to the beach.  We sat on the sand while Kevin shared a bit about his life.  As he talked I was amazed at how I felt as though I’d known this man all my life.  Yet, in fact, I hadn’t even known him for two hours.  That sixty minutes we spent on the beach passed in a heartbeat.  But at the same time it seemed as if time had stopped and we’d entered eternity.  Something strange was indeed happening.  Something strangely right.

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