During my gap year abroad, my British suite mate would try on outfit after outfit before she got on a plane.
“What about this one?” She’d ask, walking into mine and my roommate Sarah’s room, decked out in an outfit that looked chic as hell, but wholly uncomfortable for an international flight.
“For when you get home?” We’d ask, skeptical of how a blazer or fitted dress would fare on a five hour flight.
“For the flight!” she’d say. “You never know who you’re going to meet on a plane,” her English accent commanding an authority that made me believe I had been living the past 18 years all wrong. That I had missed every opportunity to meet the love of my life, because of the leggings and sweatshirt I had consistently thrown on before heading to the airport without thinking. Because in those days athleisure wasn’t a thing, and so what I was pulling off was really just the rolled out of bed look, minus the cute filter and hashtag of “I woke up like this.”
Fast forward 1 year. And I’m flying to Paris during college break with my same gap year roommate and best friend, Sarah. I couldn’t tell you what we were wearing, although I like to think it was something slightly more appealing, because I do know that we always think twice about what we wear on planes now.
But what I can tell you is that Sarah and I each had aisle seats across from each other, and that the girl sitting in the middle seat next to Sarah had clearly gotten our suite mate’s memo. She looked amazing. It of course helped that she was gorgeous. Tall, thin, a slender face with striking jawbones and straight dirty blonde hair. She wore fitted jeans and a simple sweater. Little to no make-up. Parisian minimalism at its finest.
Enter her other seatmate. An equally beautiful man. Olive skin, round face, with a strong jaw, green eyes, wavy hair. He wasn’t noticeably tall, but he was fit; you could tell he took care of himself.
They looked like they had been stolen off the pages of Vogue.
And as the plane ride progressed Sarah and I began to watch their story unfold. Neither knew the other before the flight, and yet, as if good looking people have magnets attached to their persons, they were immediately drawn to each other, began speaking from the moment they sat down.
She was French, returning from a trip to New York, and he was Turkish American, visiting a friend in Paris. They chatted through accents, flirted and smiled as they casually flipped through the pages of the plane’s dull magazines, breathing life into the otherwise drab flight.
And Sarah and I marveled as their romance budded in front of our eyes on this 7 plus hour plane ride to the city of love. Movies flashed on our mini TV’s, and music played from our headphones, and yet, we couldn’t stop stealing looks. A real life Romcom was developing in front of our eyes, and every so often Sarah would tap me with an update.
“She’s showing him how far her apartment is on the map from where he is staying.”
“They’re exchanging information.”
And I’d look over, scared to stare for too long, but also knowing that they were in their own cocoon, unaware that people around them even knew they existed.
They flirted and cuddled, and we watched as they played with the eye masks that come with your seat, but rarely get used. She put on hers, he his. And they chatted through blind giggles with their masks on, a slow build up of flirtatious playfulness. And then, he lifted his mask up and slowly kissed her, gently lifting her mask as the kiss progressed. And time stood still. Well for Sarah and me, at least. The whole plane ride had been building up to this moment. Sarah and I nearly lost it. All of the air had been sucked out of the plane, because we had just witnessed the most romantic first kiss of all time.
Was a small part of me jealous? Sure, I’d missed my shot at the ticket lottery. That could have been me, I thought. If only I had been willing to sit in a middle seat.
But then again, maybe I had really won. I had watched a real life romance novel write itself in front of my eyes. Every cliche I had ever seen grace the movie theater screens was playing out in real life, and it made me smile and hopeful in a way that was more real than a book or a movie could ever be.
But I guess that’s just something you tell yourself when you know that even if you had been sitting in that middle seat, that NEVER would’ve been you. I mean, there’s just no way I would’ve chatted with that guy for more than five minutes before he would’ve turned away, because in the least self deprecating way possible, that girl and I just were not on the same ratings scale.
When we landed in Paris we watched as they held hands walking off the plane, and then laughed as they awkwardly had to separate at customs.
Perhaps they would see each other once or twice over the next few days, and the chemistry would fizzle. But what if they really hit it off, we wondered? What if that was the start of their great love story, and we were there to witness it? These are the things that keep me up at night, even now, years later.
And then I start to think, what If they’re out there, in a tiny apartment in the ninth arrondissement wondering about us? Do you think they’re lying in bed with their face masks, the dog at the edge of the bed and their son sleeping in the next room, wondering if Sarah and I are still friends?