The air in the Reno airport is stale, and there is something about the sound of the slot machines behind me that isn’t right. When did the ching ching become a recording? I sit in the waiting area and stare out the window at the tarmac.

Another reunion, this time our 20th. It didn’t take long for Drew to find me. Drinks were served on the patio outside his parent’s cabin, and his mother pulled up a chair next to mine. I remember someone asking how long I’d been married, and a sigh that drew a laugh escaping with my answer. Nine years.

A group of us drove together to the gathering at the lodge, and while I was turned, talking to an old friend, Drew sat down next to me at the table. Dinner was electric with him by my side. I don’t know what I ordered or even that I ate, but I do remember that he glanced at my ring, and I wished I could take it off. We talked about things that didn’t matter, things that were broad and easy. I thought about how comforting it would be to place my hand on his leg, and have him cover it with his own.

After dinner and the required thank you’s and remember when’s, everyone drove down to the Mill Tavern. The old bar, with its uneven floors and walls lined with photos and sanctioned graffiti, felt familiar and close. But ten minutes in, with a beer in front of me and twenty year old cliques forming behind me, I longed to be outside. The truth is that I didn’t care about any of it. I was here to see him, and I knew I shouldn’t have come. I slipped out to the parking lot and took a deep breath. The air was fresh, and the trees had a dusty green smell both intimate and ordinary. I found a tree to lean on and put my nose against the bark. Vanilla.

I heard the crunch of his footsteps before I saw him. We sat in his car and picked up our conversation, going a little deeper this time. But we weren’t alone long. And then it was time to go.

Planes are shuttling in and out of view but I hardly see them. The ache is so acute, heavy and tight, it surprises me. How can I be homesick for a place that isn’t mine, and a possibility that was never real? Tears threaten to fall, and I know sinking into the feeling is the only way to relieve its pressure, to dull the sharp point. But not here. I focus on the line forming at the gate. A woman comes up to the counter, turning just enough that I can see she has wings embedded in rhinestones on the back of her t-shirt. Angel wings. It’s most certainly a sign. Not a direction, not an answer, but an acknowledgement. Someone hears me. Someone knows.

My plane is about to board, and I pick up my bag. I can’t stay, and I can’t forget who waits for me. I will soon be in the air, leaving this place behind again. I am like velcro, being pulled off my other side.

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