“Well that didn't work.” I said as I refastened my seat belt.
“This is hard.”
“I didn't say it was going to be easy, I said it would make you understand what life is like for me. Everything is a risk, new and unknown and takes incredible effort, even something as simple as a kiss isn't so simple if there are barriers to overcome.” As we were talking someone came walking up the aisle, and stopped beside me. Jean jacket, faux wool, blonde hair. It was my blue eyes! What was he doing up in first-class?
“Hang on Hank,” I said stopping him in mid-sentence, with a hand on his forearm, as my eyes reconnected with my handsome stranger. I had to remind myself of my interview because as soon as I realized it was him, I forgot all about everything. I saw his blue eyes dart to Hank, saw the surprise. It was a common look I was used to for those in the sensory-impaired community. He saw Hank, then saw Hank's blindness, and he was no longer a man sitting beside me, he was a blind man, and Blue Eyes didn't know what to do, or what to say. I wondered what his initial plan had been in the first place. I was about to introduce him, whoever he was, to Hank but he moved on, quickly, like I had up the aisle and into a vacant bathroom. I smiled. I knew he was interested. There was a bathroom back there way closer to him. He followed me.
I explained to Hank what had just happened, from the beginning. He knew better than I did about peoples' reactions to him.
“He's your mark.”
“He's the one. Kiss him.”
“What? I thought I got to pick.”
“Fine then, but I recommend you pick him.”
“OK then.” I was going to do it. He was going to come out of the bathroom and I was going to stand and grab him and kiss him like my life, or at least my career depended on it. I was. I was! And then he came out and I froze again. He looked at me and made me forget everything I had just planned to do. My legs wouldn't move, nothing...all I could do was stare, like a deer in the headlights and watch as he and he kept walking... then, as he passed, I finally reacted and grabbed his ringless-left hand in desperation and said, “Wait!”
He stopped and looked at my hand on his, then smirked but said nothing and stood still. He was cute, definitely, my age and my ticket to pass this phase of the interview. My heart beat like hummingbird's. He was looking at me, I stood, never taking my eyes from his. He was much taller than me, over six feet, easy.
“OK,” I said standing to meet him. “This is going to sound like the worst come on line on the planet, but I have to kiss you, right here, right now. You don't have a girlfriend or anything like that do you? Crap! Wait... don't even answer that.” I said remembering Hank already told me this was the guy, “Just... let me kiss you first then I won't know.”
“Uhhh,” he smiled, “Why do you have to kiss me?”
I grinned and put my face in my hands and shook my head. “I can't believe this,” I said to my hands. I knew Hank couldn't hear that even if he could hear any other part of the conversation. As awkward as kissing a boy on a plane was, it was a means to the end. To the job of my future. Blue Eyes gave me the perfect way to include my weird interviewer into the moment. “This is Hank Moore, he does TV shows about adventure.”
“Yeah!” Blue Eyes said, “I thought that was him,” he said, all of a sudden way more interested in Hank than me, “but then I was like, no, no way. So you've been to the Congo?” He asked turning his attention to Hank, who nodded and sat up and forward toward us his right ear cocked noticeably toward us. I wondered how much he could hear from his distance down and three feet away with all the engine noise. Our own conversation side-by-side had been choppy and staggered as it was. Blue Eyes looked at him, then me, and the uncertainty flooded across his face. I did not know him, but I thought I knew the look. He wanted to know something but didn't know how or who to ask. And this would be the guts of my job, connecting Hank to the outside world, not only the places and activities but the people, the fans, that he couldn't see and they couldn't do without guidance.
I smiled lightly and said, “It's OK, he takes questions, you can ask more if you want.” And then it occurred to me that maybe Hank didn't take questions.
“It's OK if he asks you questions right?” I asked leaning into Hank's good ear.
Hank nodded his head up and down once, his ear still turned toward Blue Eyes.
“So, I heard there are stories about a dinosaur that lives there, is that real?”
Hank turned toward me, he couldn't hear, “He wants to know if a dinosaur lives in the Congo since you've been there to explore.” I asked a little louder.
“Dinosaur? Oh, Mkele um bembe? Yes, there are rumors, of a sauropod-like creature that lives in the waters. Huge, plant eating. Highly territorial. Most of the natives are afraid to say too much out loud. They think it will anger the beast.”
“That's crazy man. Did you... uhhh” he stopped, looked at me nervously, “see one?” he finished asking Hank then turned back to me.
“No, but we did have a close call with a hippo though. That was interesting.”
“Yeah, I remember that on the show,” Blue Eyes said with a smile, then turning to me, “So what does he have to do with you kissing me.”
“Oh,” for the slightest second I forgot about that. I was doing what I was supposed to do, what I dreamed of doing for a living, then he reminded me of the kiss. Apparently he hadn't forgotten. “He wants to know about the kiss,” I said loud enough that Hank could hear. I felt suddenly exposed, the two of us were standing in the front of first class and I was speaking loud enough for most of the others around to hear as well as Hank, “I'm, um, actually, trying to get a job working for him.” I knew he wouldn't know what an Intervener was and didn't want to say companion and job in the same sentence so I left it there, “It's my task for the plane ride.”
He pushed his lips together in contemplation, staring at me hard, nodding his head then said, “Well, if you have to kiss me, how about I make it easy for you?” and pulled me close to him in one quick, fluid move. The electricity running from him to me was palpable, I looked down, then up then leaned into him. Both of us refused to close our eyes. I don't know what his thing was, I kept mine open to be sure he wasn't going to change his mind at the last minute, and leave me standing there expectantly with my eyes closed, not that Hank would see it if he did, but I would be embarrassed. Everything proceeded in slow motion, until we were only inches away from each other, each watching the other for permission to move closer. Finally, in desperation, I begged him, “Would you just kiss me already?”
It was all the permission he needed. He smiled big, grabbed my face in his hands and covered my lips with his...