Friday, September 18, 2020

“The Meeting” by Donna Guzik

Jesse Collins walked toward the departure lounge, looking for a seat. She stepped carefully, trying not to drop her sandwich which was precariously perched on top of a much needed coffee, the other hand dragging her carry-on bag behind her.  She always hated to fly. And now to add to matters she was to sit on a five hour flight to Vancouver to visit family members she hadn’t seen since she was seventeen. She couldn’t miss her parents’ 30th anniversary party though. Besides, her mother said she had a surprise for her, wanted her to meet someone. God, she hoped her mother wasn’t trying to set her up again.

She slowly made her way toward the one open seat she saw, and just as she was about to sit, she felt the coffee cup slip and tilt over as she tried to save the sandwich from falling to the floor. She saw everything in slow motion, watching in horror as the lid popped off the cup, spilling coffee into the lap of the guy in the next seat.

“Agh! What the hell?” He jumped up, trying to wipe the liquid from his crotch, but pulling back because it was burning his hands.
“Oh my god! I’m so sorry! Let me help you.” Jesse let the rest of her things tumble on to the vacant chair, as she tried to find some tissues in her pocket. The entire population of the departure lounge now gawking in amusement.

“No, don’t! You’ve done enough. Just let me do it.” He grabbed the tissues from her and started dabbing at his pants. All Jesse could do was stand there, helplessly watching.

 “Are you sure I can’t do anything?” Jesse asked.

“Yeah, you could get away from me.” He continued trying to clean his pants.

“Well, do you have another pair of pants in your carry on?” She motioned to the small suitcase beside him.

 “No.” He glared at her.

 “Oh, well there’s a little shop over there, the least I can do is buy you a new pair of pants.”

“Yup. It is the least you could do. Fine. C’mon then.” He grabbed his suitcase, rolling it behind him and started awkwardly walking towards the shop, still dabbing at his pants.

Jesse quickly gathered up her fallen sandwich, stuffed it in her large purse and fell in step beside him. “I’m Jesse by the way.” She extended her hand. He looked at it, looked up at her, and kept walking. “I can’t apologize enough for …”

 “For burning my nuts off?”

 “Well, obviously I didn’t mean it. It was an accident. And you gotta admit, it did add a bit of levity to the room. Flying can be such a dreary experience, so anything to break up the ….”

 “Shut up, will you? Can you just do that for me?” He quickened his pace.

 “Sorry, I just thought…”

 “No. Seriously. Stop talking.”

When they got to the shop he made a bee line for the men’s pant section. Jesse came up beside him and starting looking through the rack.

“What size are you?”

 “Thirty-inch waist,” he said, rifling through the rack, checking sizes.

She stopped what she was doing and looked at him, letting her eyes drop to his waistline and back up to his eyes.

“Oh honey, you’re a thirty-four if you’re a day. Trust me. I work at the GAP.  Here. Try these.”

“Fine.” He grabbed the pants and started walking towards the change room.

“Wanna a shirt to go with that? There are some nice ones here. Ooh. This one would really bring out the colour of your eyes. I mean, whatever colour they are. Pretty sure this kind of plaid goes with everything.”

“Look, I don’t need a makeover or a wardrobe consultant. Like I didn’t need to wear your cup of coffee. All I need is….”

“How do they fit?”

“Spectacular.” He emerged from the change room wearing a dark blue pair of Dockers, the price tag hanging from the front pocket. “Do they make my butt look big?” he deadpanned.

 “You don’t really have much of a butt, so you’re good.”

 “Thanks for your input.”

 “You did ask.”

     They walked up to the counter, and Jesse tore off the tag and handed it to the clerk. “We’ll take these thanks,” she said, handing over her credit card. She looked over and saw him balling up his coffee stained pants, and putting them in his carry-on bag. As he looked up at her, his eyes softened.

 “Sorry, I was a bit harsh. But you did almost burn off my bits and pieces.”

Jesse looked more closely at his face. In his mid-thirties, she figured. That would make him about ten years older than her. And there was something familiar about his eyes. 

“Sorry. Again. Hopefully everything is still in working order. I wouldn’t want to ruin your weekend. I take it you’re also heading to Vancouver on the one thirty flight?”


“Well, we’ve still got a lot of time until departure, now that you’ve got your spiffy new pants, can I buy you a cup of coffee or something?”

“NO! No thanks. I’ve had enough caffeine for one day.”

“Well, if you don’t mind, I’m going to get one. You wore my last one. Meet you back in the lounge.”

“Don’t rush on my account.” He walked over and settled back into a seat to read his paper.

As she headed towards him a few minutes later, she noticed he shifted in his seat when he saw her. She surpressed a smile.  

“Keep that cup away from me woman.”

Jesse laughed. “Not to worry. You’re safe.”

They sat in silence for a few minutes as Jesse slurped her coffee through the small opening in the lid. “I didn’t catch your name.”

“I didn’t throw it. But it’s Callum.”

 “That sounds Scottish or Irish or something.”

“Scottish. I was originally born in Scotland, but was adopted by a Canadian couple and ended up being raised here in Toronto. They kept my birth name.” He turned back to his newspaper, signalling an end to any conversation.  

 “Cool. My mom was born in Scotland. She came to Canada in her late teens, and settled in Vancouver after meeting my dad. That’s where I grew up.” She looked over at him, still engrossed in his paper. They sat in silence for a few minutes. But Jesse couldn’t help herself.

“So, did you ever want to know who your real mom was? I mean your biological mom. And why she gave you up? If I was adopted, I’d want to know.”

He slowly turned to her. “Well now, that’s a rather personal question.”

 “It’s two questions, actually. I was just curious. I thought the whole coffee in the crotch thing bonded us a little.”

He put down his paper and looked her in the eye. “If you must know I did find out who my biological mother is. I found her about eight months ago. We actually met recently.”

 “What happened? I mean, did she tell you why she gave you up?”

 “She was sixteen, and her parents forced her to put me up for adoption. A year later her parents were killed in a car crash. She didn’t see much of a future for herself in Glasgow, so she came to Canada to live with an elderly aunt.”

 “Wow. It’s so cool that you guys connected  and could start to know each other. Where does she live now? Jesse said, removing the lid of her cup to take a bigger sip.

 “Vancouver. That’s why I’m going there. She says now that we’ve met she wants to introduce me to the rest of her extended family. She hasn’t told me anything about them, and aside from her husband, they don’t know about me, so it’s supposed to be a surprise.”

 “Hey, I know Vancouver’s a big place, but since both of our moms are from Scotland, wouldn’t it be weird if they knew each other? What’s your mom’s name?”

 “Audrey Collins. Well Collins is her married name. They’re celebrating their thirtieth anniversary this weekend. That’s where I’m going actually. My grand entrance as the long lost son of Audrey is supposed to be the big surprise at the party.”

Jesse froze, her eyes widened. She turned to face him a little too quickly, her coffee spilling all over her lap.

Donna Guzik is an accidental business broadcast journalist. She currently freelances as a nationally syndicated business columnist with CBC Radio and occasionally takes to the ste as a humorous storyteller. Donna enjoys running, photography, cooking and a good glass of wine. She lives in Oakville, Ontario.

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