It was 1967, sometime during the advent of winter. I stood nearly alone on the airport observation deck, watching and waiting. The weather was cold and blustery, causing me to shiver badly. After a time, I saw the plane as it sped down the runway and ascended into the night air, gone from view, and sadly, gone forever.
A haunting emptiness consumed me and filled my eyes with tears, as I came to grips with the reality of how much I would miss her. She was on her way to another city to begin a new life with her soon to be husband. I met him once and knew he was a good guy. I was very happy for her and confident she was marrying the right man. And I too would soon begin a new life with my future wife. But still, I grieved for what was, knowing it could never be again.
We first met in college near the end of our junior year. She was newly engaged to be married and I would become engaged shortly after graduation in August. We dated platonically during our senior year, as we each had lovers elsewhere. We would exchange goodnight pecks on the cheek, but otherwise, conscientiously avoided all other physical contact. There were some close calls when we started to kiss more deeply, but each time, we broke it off before it went further. Our most intimate times together involved conversational intercourse, fueling the close relationship that evolved over time.
On the day she left, we planned to go to a hotel restaurant near the airport for lunch, making the drive to catch her afternoon flight short in case we ran late. After lunch, she surprised me with the news that she changed her ticket to a night flight. She surprised me even more by telling me that she checked into a hotel room for the afternoon, so we would have a comfortable place to relax and converse. Well, we did some of that, but before long, deep kisses replaced a year of frustratingly lame pecks on the cheek. Our relationship was consummated, fully and passionately, and with meaningful love.
We agreed that our goodbye gift to each other was the best possible ending and that we should separate, leaving our love making as our final memory. We came to the painful recognition that any attempt to extend our relationship would only serve to dilute the memory, and no doubt, bring discomfort to our future spouses. Thus, going forward, we made no attempt to transcend the span of distance with phone calls or letters. And, sadly, as it turned out, we never spoke or saw each other again.
Our college days, even our love making, are not my most vivid memories of her. More lasting are my emotions has I stood in the cold, feeling miserable and watching as she disappeared from my life. I remember describing my feelings in Airport Lights, naming the poem after the large matrix of landing lights observed from the observation deck that night. Putting my thoughts on paper and exposing raw emotions that had been suppressed, took on importance that was not fully understood until years later. The poem, while undoubtedly not great, revealed much about the dawn of me as it relates to love, sex and marriage. It also revealed my ignorance about what we now call polyamory.
The core elements of this story are factual: college, the young woman, her engagement, my engagement, our friendship, our evolving relationship, suppressed desire, our erotic farewell and the writing of Airport Lights. However, the events I describe occurred over forty-five years ago, so much has been forgotten. Then too, literary license was necessary in order to weave the elements together in a brief, cohesive story. But, of this I am certain: for the second time in my young life, I was deeply in love, and for the first time, I was deeply in love with two women simultaneously - one who left and one with whom I would spend the next twenty-four years. And to this day, I still love them both.
As a footnote, Airport Lights, along with all of my other early writings, was lost with the loss of my first marriage. This is undoubtedly a good thing on both counts.