When Alex Toomey’s partner of eight years breaks up with him in the airport boarding area just before his flight, Alex is devastated. Barely able to function, he boards his plane, where the man he’s seated beside, Tom Genser, comes to his rescue, first with a drink, then later with some solace, both emotional and physical.
But Alex is walking wounded and, though the two men realize something wonderful is coming alive between them, Tom insists they part to allow Alex to gain a grip on his life. Can Alex survive long without Tom and worse, will Tom even still be there if he does?
Inside the plane, the aisle was predictably clogged, and I waited. There was no longer any purpose to my life. I moved when I was allowed, stowed my bag, and dropped into an aisle seat in the next-to-last row. Near the tail, I thought, picturing it falling off en route to L.A. Tears welled.
The flight attendant had to remind me to fasten my seat belt. Then the plane was airborne, and I imagined Raymond driving away free of me. I had never felt so alone.
When the drinks cart came by I declined, but the guy in the window seat ordered a bloody Mary. When it arrived, he mixed it and handed it to me.
“What’s this?” I rasped, barely able to speak.
“You look like you could use it.”
My hand flew to my cheek. “Oh, God,” I said as I frantically wiped the stream of tears. The drink was still in the guy’s outstretched hand -- the middle seat was empty -- and when I didn’t take it, he pulled down my tray and set it before me, along with the napkin which I used to mop my tears. I then took a long swallow of the drink and felt the spicy liquid free fall into my stomach. “Thanks,” I said.
I looked at him then, blond and blue-eyed, Raymond’s opposite. His smile was tentative, as if he didn’t want to make light of an obviously difficult moment. I tried to return the smile and found I couldn’t so I turned away. I wanted to empty my mind, but I couldn’t shake the image of Raymond staring straight ahead as he told me our life -- my life -- was over. I could see him breezing along the freeway, talking on his cell phone, sharing the story with his new love. Maybe they’d planned a celebration fuck. The idea sent a wave of anguish through me and I grabbed the drink and swigged.
“Hey, take it easy,” my seatmate cautioned.
“Impossible,” I snapped when I’d drained the glass. “In fact, I’m going to have another.”
He said nothing as I summoned the attendant and mixed a new drink. The first had begun to work, loosening everything except Raymond who still clung to me even as he sped toward a future that didn’t include me.
“Want to talk about it?” the guy asked.
I shook my head. “Talking won’t help. Killing might.”
He turned to the window, and I knew I’d gotten too dramatic. I wanted to tell him I wasn’t serious, but kept quiet. There was some truth to the comment, however. As I finished the second drink, I wondered what I’d do if Raymond and Mr. Whoever were in front of me. I spent several minutes crafting a bloody scenario, knowing all the while I’d never commit such mayhem. Against myself maybe. I let out a heavy sigh, drained my glass, sucked in an ice cube, and let it melt on my tongue.
When I had a third drink in hand, I told my seatmate my lover of eight years had broken up with me ten minutes before I boarded the plane.
“That’s terrible,” he said.
“It’s more than I can handle.” Tears started rising again. I downed more of the drink and let them come. He offered me a handkerchief, which I accepted.
I had four drinks during the one-hour flight and we finally exchanged names. He was Tom Genser and I told him I was Alex Toomey, or at least I had been. He helped me off the plane. He got my bag from the overhead and carried it and his own, since it took all my concentration to walk. In the boarding area I collapsed into a chair.
“I shouldn’t have gotten you started,” he said.
I laughed. “If you hadn’t, I would have. Sometimes getting drunk is all you can do.”