Tuesday, July 04, 2006

I Met the Medic on a Dark, Strange Night

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I met the Medic on a dark, strange night in late June. We were flying through a thunderstorm as we approached the airport in the last few moments of our flight from Chicago to Albany, New York.

He was seated in the same row but across the aisle. For some reason, I had captured his attention. He looked at me, and he seemed surprised to have been distracted by another passenger.

I lost myself in the music I was listening to. Listening to my favorite chill-out tunes I could remain passive as the plane lurched, dropped, dipped, and pulled my stomach into knots. We were on a 51-passenger Embraer regional jet. It was a little powerhouse, which was some relief. It was still a rough ride.

He had looked at me again. Something in his eyes drew me in. There were dark whirlpools in the night. The downward pull had no ending point, nor did it have a beginning. This was the apotheosis of raw fear, despair, and desire. I felt myself starting to crave.

He spoke Spanish. Don’t ask me how I knew. No words were exchanged.

Once on the ground, I followed him as he disembarked. Walking quickly, I approached him, came within a few feet. Sensing me, he turned. His eyes burned. Dark charcoal with glowing red pinpoints of light in the center. It was looking into a laser-site on an automatic weapon. My stomach lurched again, my knees trembled.

His pupils could not be red. That was impossible.

“Que vuelo. Que suerte que llegamos vivos. What a flight. Lucky we got here alive.”

“Y asi somos? Are we?” His lips parted in a smile. Lips full. His hips were narrow. Slender face. A haunted shadow crossed his face, and with flash-knowledge I realized he suffered from tremendous nightmares. He leaned toward me. My heart raced in response.

Walking wordlessly, we made our way toward the baggage claim area.

“I’m staying at the Hilton in Saratoga Springs. Would you have time to join me? For coffee? A drink?”

It is far. Saratoga Springs is a good 40 miles away. I live in the other direction. I don’t know him. It is stormy. Horse races. High-tech and nano-tech. Mafia. Horse breeders. Genetic engineering.

“The storm,” I said. I gestured toward the glass windows through which we could see droplets cascading against the glass. Lightning flashed blue-white illumination. Signs flapped in the gale-force winds.

“Come with me.”

Changing the subject was not a very skillful way to mask my emotions, but I tried it anyway.

“I can’t believe we made it through that storm.”

“How do you know that we actually made it? Do you know without a shadow of a doubt that we did?”

My bag circled on the carousel and glided toward me.

“Here is my card,” I said. I was trying to deflect the searing, sizzling heat. “My phone. Work.”

We walked toward the automatic doors to the covered sidewalk and walkway to the parking garage. We parted. He ran toward a taxi and I bolted down the walkway as the slashing rain soaked me nonetheless.

The night was not kind to me. Still on time stuck somewhere between the Caspian Sea and the Mediterranean, I awakened at 3 a.m. There was nothing to do but go to the office at 4:45 a.m. Pale light. Steam, fog rising from the river, with moisture and condensate gripping the car before it lost the battle and slid down the metal door.

Mid-morning. Phone rings. Come with me to Cincinnati.

I can’t. But I can meet you for dinner.

Good. We can talk about it.

Storms rolled in again that afternoon. His flight was delayed yet again.

“Come with me.”

We were in a small bar on the side of a new chain hotel popular with business travelers needing free high-speed internet and a shuttle to the airport.

“Buy a ticket. Come with me.”

“Impossible.”

He ordered a pinot grigio. I order the same. The owner of the establishment looked over at us. The skin of her face was crumpled crepe paper.

He passed his hand over mine, but did not touch my skin. I could see sparks flare gently like fireflies on a clear, hot summer night.

Thunder growled.

Beads of condensate formed on the side of the chilled glass of wine. The pinot grigio was pale like sunlight in winter. I tried not to think of winter in this place – the darkness, the cold, the sense of being buried alive, not in comforting dirt, but in a chill, dank vault.

“The rivers are over their banks,” said a woman somewhere in the bar.

We finished our glasses of wine. He held his hand over mine, and I felt the electricity that stuns like contact with a force field or an electric fence.

“Come with me.”

“I can’t.”

From the bar, we made our way down a dark corridor. Doors clicked behind us and were on a landing.

“I want you. I’ve never felt this way about a woman. I want you. Now.”

My chest was pounding.

My head, shattering as though electrodes are on my temples. Conducting gel liquefying, streaming, sizzling.

I blinked my eyes.

***

The memory will come back when it is time.

The medic touches my lips with his. They are dry, cool, strangely elastic, like an IV bag or medical tubing. I feel a shiver. I wonder what the origin could be. I can’t believe that something could affect me like this. What could it be?

I know. I know very well. It is The Medic.

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