It took us, oh, about four years before we finally managed to meet in person. It's been a couple of years now since that meeting, and we haven't seen each other since, but I gotta say that the 36 hours I spent with you in that Pensacola motel room are some of the sweetest hours that I've known.
It was on the second floor of a La Quinta Inn, right off the highway. A smoking room. I'd quit by that time, but I knew you'd like it. We'd spent years on the phone, writing letters; we knew each other's hearts and faces - but can you remember how nervous we were when you knocked on my door? Granted, I was clearly more nervous than you were - which I think put you a bit at ease. The strangeness of finally being together after all that time lingered for a few hours that first night before it finally let us be.
I remember us driving to a nearby grocery store and I got some Sun Chips, and OJ for screwdrivers. We went to the liquor store next door for the vodka, and I got a pack of cigarettes...no peer pressure involved. Except for a run to Taco Bell the next day, we spent most of our time in the room. We talked, smoked, drank, loved, laughed, and watched TV.
The last night, Saturday night, I insisted on a walk. We walked through parking lots to a busy nearby street, mostly in silence. I could tell that you were sad - because I'd be leaving in a few hours, you told me later. Lots of headlights, the noise of traffic, neon signs, and a halfhearted breeze. Me trying to cheer you up with light conversation and my contrived, bizarre sense of humor. Not feelin' it, we walked back to the room and I watched you watch a movie.
Later, we got in bed and things lightened up. We lied with each other and listened to the radio, with its odd soundtrack, songs fitting, and seemingly played just for us. It was so lovely being near you, you have no idea. When you fell asleep, I took a shower, packed my bag, and got ready to leave. The tiny bottle of citrus-scented shampoo I used that night made its way with me back to Texas. These past two years, every now and then, I've washed my hair with it, letting it take me back to our time. I only threw it away just a little over a month ago. I got back in bed after I was ready and lied there listening to you breathe, and the music, before it was time for us to go.
We decided to stop by Denny's before heading to the airport for an early morning breakfast. There were a few tables of people and I remember the waitress as being nice. I watched you eat your eggs or whatever it was and watched you drink your coffee. I imagined that we must look like a couple from other people's points of view. I'd thought of myself in that role all these years. And here I imagined it again, trying it on for size. It felt comfortable to me, and possibly right.
In the dark, on the way to the airport, the windows to your truck were down a bit, and Elvis - or was it Johnny Cash? - played faintly on the radio. I watched you as you drove. (I was always watching you, taking you in.) With your one hand on the wheel, you looked handsome to me. And sleepy.
It's funny, I remember most of all that followed, everything in between - but for some reason, I can't remember our first kiss. I definitely remember our last, though. We were parked at the passenger drop-off, one of the few vehicles there. I asked you for your cap, which you freely gave. I reached over and kissed you. It wasn't a kiss of finality. It wasn't a kiss of goodbye, not really. It was bittersweet, of course, but it was more of an "I'll see you later" kind of kiss.
I love you and I'll see you later.
I got out, you drove away, and I lit my last cigarette, sitting on the bench and thinking about our time.
I still do, you know. I like to think we'll hook up again. Hopefully for longer than a portion of a weekend. But until then, we'll always have Pensacola. ;-)