CAMDEN By BRENDA MILES
It’s strange how we live our lives fantasizing about something; and, then when the moment arrives, it doesn’t happen that way at all.
Dec. 15, 1994.
Have you ever had a day that seemed to go wrong from the moment you stepped out of bed? This was such a day. To begin with, my alarm failed to go off causing me to lose precious minutes in what I knew to be a heavily scheduled day at work. I was 30 minutes late when the secretary greeted me with three messages from the corporate office. ASAP was heavily underlined on each one. I asked the subject of the calls.
“I have no idea,” she answered, “they just said they must speak to you at once. I tried your cell phone and so did they, but we got your voice mail.” Of course, they did. In my rush, I’d left the phone on my coffee table after taking my last call the night before.
A partner in Atlanta answered on the first ring. I could sense the grimace in his voice. Tomorrow’s afternoon board meeting had been moved up to 9 a.m. I would have to fly out today. Also, he needed a copy of my report on his desk by noon.
I instructed Linda to cancel my afternoon appointments, change my airline reservations from tomorrow to this afternoon—as early a flight as possible—and hold all calls while I did one final edit of my presentation.
For the next two hours, I hardly took time to breathe. Mentally exhausted, I headed for the fax where I found a workman, his box of tools beside him, gazing into the insides of an inoperable machine. I dashed upstairs where I found a workable one and sent the report. Stopping by Linda’s desk, I apologized for being so curt earlier, but she just waved away my words with fluttering fingers and a smile. Afterward, my electronically confirmed airline reservation and boarding pass in hand, I rushed out of the office at 11:50.
Back at home, I grabbed a Granola bar from my pantry. The business suit I planned for the meeting had a small ink spot on the skirt and I chose another only to learn I had no matching hose. I’d rush by a store on the way. Everything stuffed into luggage, I was at the elevator before I remembered my briefcase by the door. More minutes wasted while I ran back to retrieve it.
The store was unusually crowded for a Thursday noon. A lady in check-out had all sorts of questions about her bill. Fifteen more minutes wasted while purchasing the hose. I sped from the parking lot and headed for the ramp to the interstate. To ease my tension, I turned on the radio to an easy listening station. “Alabama” was singing,
“Once upon a lifetime,
“I looked in someone’s eyes,
“and felt the fire burning within my heart,
“for the very first time…”
I sailed along for the first 20 minutes until I saw red tail lights blinking off and on in my lane. I didn’t need this! Then, I watched all lights turn to a steady red. I pressed hard on my brake. The D.J. came on, evidently repeating an earlier report—due to a collision clean-up, the right two lanes to the airport exit had been temporarily blocked. Please make plans according to this delay.
“GREAT!” I muttered.
Then to make matters worse, Karen Carpenter began singing, “Merry Christmas, Darling.” It was a favorite of a long-ago love. WHY, God? I have to make this plane and I don’t need to remember an old love when I have someone waiting in Atlanta.
This old love and I had met during our junior year at Ole Miss. We attended an Intercollegiate Council Meeting in early December and had coffee later. Chatting, we learned we had much in common and, the following week we ran into each other at Square Books on the square. He made a date for the final night before we left for Christmas vacation. It was the most perfect date I’d ever known. First, he escorted me around Oxford’s lighted square in all its Christmas beauty; then we had pizza at a popular place and the night ended by him buying me a gorgeous white poinsettia. He apologized it wasn’t red but I told him white ones were my favorite. We listened to “Merry Christmas, Darling,” and it became our song. The night was perfect. So was he. I’d never believed in ‘love at first sight’ before that beautiful Christmas time.
During second semester and the following year we spent all possible time together. He took me to various landmarks around Oxford…on picnics…quiet dinners on the square…or just walks around the Magnolia-scented campus. After graduation he left for Columbia for his MBA. I was heartbroken, head over heels in love.
This trip to Atlanta had a two-fold purpose. I’d been dating a young man there, Tim Hargus, for the past two years–long distance. He’d travel to Houston and I’d travel to Atlanta. He was on a business trip at the moment and would not be back until late Saturday. The plan: I’d meet his parents after tomorrow afternoon’s meeting (as originally scheduled) for dinner, and meet him at the airport on Saturday evening. The parent meeting would still work with me coming in a day early. But why all this nostalgic music that took me back in time .to another relationship??
Suddenly, all lanes came to a stop. NO!!! Barbra Striesand sang,”The Way We Were…” Finally the song ended and my car inched into the airport parking lot. I flagged a transport and ran furiously through the terminal—rolling luggage behind me, grasping tote and briefcase, purse dangling from shoulder and grBrenda Miles is an award-winning columnist and author living in Hot Springs Village. She answers all mail at email@example.com. This serial is from her fiction collection.asping my boarding pass in my one free hand. Out of breath, I reached the gate only to watch the jet way doors close!
All I could do was return to the ticket counter to pay extra for the next flight. I sat for 90 minutes, sipping a lukewarm Starbuck’s while trying to concentrate on a discarded magazine. Thank God, the next flight was on time.
Aboard the plane, I shoved both small tote and briefcase inside the first overhead I found. Finding my seat assignment, I stepped over the man on the aisle whose face was obscured by his newspaper until I awkwardly knocked it from his hands when I dropped my heavy purse and murmured,
“Pardon, so sorry…oops!…excuse…” He quickly bent to retrieve both as I fell into my seat with a sigh.
“Thank you,” I smiled a crooked smile, not making eye contact. I’ve never liked conversing with strangers on planes.
A hand reached out to clasp my arm,
“I really don’t believe this!” the man spoke. I turned to a familiar voice and face…This was getting scary! Only an hour ago I was listening to ‘our’ song.
To be continued…
(Brenda Miles is an award-winning columnist and author living in Hot Springs Village. She answers all mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. This serial is from her fiction collection)