It can’t be. It is. Plaid Dad…
Fabulique Chocolat is looking at me like she wants to slap me.
This girl is head to toe glam. She walks into a room and the lights dim, the disco ball drops and the shine is on. Even her name-tag looks like bling.
Now I know how it sounds–
As if every flight attendant I work with is stunning but really, this is a tribute to our LA base.
We do become a product of our environment if not by conscious choice, by osmosis. The heels are higher, the skirts are shorter and we are marching down the jet-way to a just-arrived flight from Lihue.
The last passengers are coming up the jet-way, a brunette who is somewhat pretty and rather familiar. She must be one of our flight attendants. In fact, she kind of looks like–
And then I see the Tom Cruise grin that has no time to shift when he recognizes it’s me so instead, freezes.
Dear God, it’s him.
And the new wife.
And they look happy.
There’s no way to avoid the next three seconds of my life.
“Hi,” he says.
I have no words.
They might not have come out right even if I did. “Hi” might have sounded like “Asshole” coming off my lips.
I have just enough time to register, “Dear God, he’s still wearing that awful plaid shirt,” and he’s gone.
Wait a minute–
That was my first thought?
This encounter is not where the nickname “Plaid Dad” was born.
He earned that after my first visit to his humble abode on an island in the Puget Sound where reality crashed against the shore of my fantasy. The man I discovered there bore little resemblance to the hot shot pilot who stood so close to me in the first class galley, my skin tingled.
That fine man obviously read GQ. He wore cologne, gelled his hair and polished his shoes to a military shine. He made me so nervous that somewhere in the transaction of handing a coffee mug to me, it went flying and shattered all over the first class galley.
This same man picked me up at Sea-Tac Airport wearing a wrinkled plaid shirt and what the– Are those black felt clogs? Clogs?
He tucked me into a dirty little Ford that smelled like a mixture of mildew, wet dog and old Burger King wrappers. We were going to spend the weekend with his kids and, as I would later find out, there was reason for my hesitation that day.
Fabulique Chocolat still looks like she wants to slap me. The girls are gathered around me in the galley as if I’m a wounded deer in the forest. I must be staring into space again.
“That’s the man who kept you in his basement?” Caroline asks, concerned.
“Lived,” I correct. “Lived in a basement.”
“Whaaat? Nooo….” breathes Fabulique Chocolat. “That was him?”
She pauses, the hand finds the hip. “He don’t look like the fine man I remember. All that gray hair? Pheh. That poor girl’s gonna get Bang-Bang-Done, for the rest of her life. Does he get full credit for the three minutes?”
“On a good day.”
“Don’t you lie. He don’t even get the three minutes. Bang-Bang-Done.”
I could have used a little more than Bang-Bang-Done to heat things up on those cold, wet nights north of Seattle where every day was a good day to stay in bed.
This is an acceptable excuse when you live in California where it rains maybe once a month during the winter, if that. When it does, people hunker down as if avoiding nuclear fall-out. Doctor appointments are cancelled, stores are empty and people like me who hail from up north get twice as much done.
Trust me, when you live in the Pacific Northwest where it rains nine months out of the year, you get out and get it done. You run, bike, sail, camp, live. This is after all, where the phrase, “Just Do It” hailed from (no pun intended).
If you don’t, you’ll end up one of those people they post bridge watch for after the holidays.
But I digress.
After three minutes in bed on a rainy Saturday,
“Now What?” looms.
Apparently his daughter is cooking dinner for us tonight. She is vegan and requires a gluten-free diet so I imagine I’ll be crunching on Kale and a little bean curd later. I look for this on the grocery list. There it is, tucked in between yams (not sweet potatoes, Dad), garlic and onions.
Kiss me now, kiss me quick. This little dinner might make me…
It looks like our major outing is to the commissary for groceries and then maybe later to the base for a little bowling. My Dad had long retired from the military when I came along so all this is new to me.
This man was a hot shot fighter pilot based at Miramar, the San Diego area base made famous by the 1980s hit, “Top Gun.” I’m intrigued.
Actually, I’m quite often intrigued by anything off limits to me or the general population.
And just being here, dating someone from work, is another rule broken. I usually don’t get involved with pilots, especially those who qualify as Top Guns.
Walking through the commissary is just like I imagined– A reality show of military wives with piles of kids wearing their Wal-mart best.
I’m woefully out of place, not only in my black fur-lined coat with knee-high Stuart Weitzman leather boots but hefting yams in the produce section. I don’t cook and I’ve no intention of learning any time soon but hey, I’m more than happy to help someone shop who’s going to cook for me.
A SEINFIELD MOMENT
He’s set garlic cloves on the cart’s baby bench and they keep falling through to the bottom of the cart. I grab a plastic bag and corral the cloves. Gotcha.
“What are you doing?” he asks.
He’s looking at the plastic bag. I think it’s rather obvious but I explain anyways. Men.
“That’s wasteful. We don’t need it.”
From the look he’s giving me, you’d think I was single-handedly responsible for global warming. We’ve stopped in our tracks, the offending bag fills the space between us.
“You’re kidding, right?”
I laugh. He is not kidding.
He scoops the garlic cloves out of the offending bag and sets them back on the baby bench. I suddenly feel like a 5-year-old who has done a bad, bad thing. Eggshells appear ankle-deep across the linoleum in front of my every step.
A clove falls to the bottom of the cart. I kick the egg-shells out of my way and walk. He follows me, pushing the cart. The other clove rolls, falls. I can’t stand it. I walk faster.
“What are you doing?” he asks.
It dawns on me–
We are having a Seinfeld moment over a plastic bag in a grocery store. I could very well not speak to him for days over this. After all, didn’t he just tell me he loved me over coffee this morning and then in the next breath, mention there were rats in the compost pile?
“Let’s go bowling,” I say over my shoulder.
I could use the feel of a heavy ball in my hand right now, hefting it down a wooden alley toward a dozen pins like a human cannon. Just visualizing his face on them makes me smile. He smiles back.
Fabulique Chocolat settles onto the jump-seat next to me.
“It’s good to see you smile, Hollywood.”
She has called me that since the day we met.
“Some day, I’m going to live up to that.”
And then it happens. A middle-aged woman stumbles out of the lavatory, eyes wide like she’s seen a poltergeist.