the woman on the plane

The older woman in the plane seat next to me let out a small, gentle, relaxed snore. She had slept through the drink and snack service and the collection of trash by the flight attendant. She was likely around 60, hair colored blonde and carefully styled, parted in the middle. She had on a stylish black sweater, white pants, and leather boots, with a gold necklace and brown belt. She was thin and fit with light makeup on. A true beauty.

Except perhaps for her open mouth, head tilted back, both sets of teeth showing as she breathed deeply, letting out another small snore.

I had to use the restroom and had been waiting patiently for over an hour for her to wake up, as she was in the aisle seat and I was in the window. We were on the front row of the small plane, and the restroom was all the way in the back. I estimated we had 30 minutes of flying time left and I wondered if I could somehow step over the sleeping woman.

I undid my seat belt, stood, and prepared to lift my right leg over the woman’s lap and step into the aisle. Just as I was reaching my leg over her, the woman woke up, laughed, patted my raised thigh with her hand, and said, “Now hold on, I can stand up.”

I returned from the restroom a few minutes later to find her smiling. “Boy, I really slept.” She had a lovely smile.

I buckled my seat belt once again. “Well, it’s just a few days after New Years. I don’t blame you for being tired.”

The woman rolled her eyes. “I was in bed by ten on New Year’s Eve, that’s hardly it. Just anticipating a few busy days of work.”

I extended a hand. “Hi, I’m Chad.”

She shook it gently. “Glory.”

I looked out the window at the snowy mountains below and knew we were getting nearer to air-polluted Salt Lake City (a terrible winter condition), leaving the chilly deserts of Palm Springs, California behind. “Do you live here in Utah?”

“Both places, actually. My husband and I own homes here and there and divide our time. We would probably leave Utah, but our daughter and grandson are here.”

“I live here as well. Been here about five years. I was in Palm Springs for the first time on vacation there.”

Glory nodded. “I grew up in Salt Lake. I like it well enough, but we adore Palm Springs. About 75 per cent of our neighbors there are older gay male couples. It’s such a nice change.”

I was surprised. I knew Palm Springs had a huge gay population, but was shocked to hear a Utah-based grandmother site this as a fact she liked to a stranger on the plane. We talked for the next several minutes, sharing stories. I told her that I was a gay father, co-raising my sons with their mother. We talked about her work in administration, and mine as a self-employed social worker. The pilot announced that we were beginning our descent into Salt Lake City as Glory showed me a photo of her adorable grandson, and I showed her a picture of my sons.

“So, Chad, tell me, what is it like being gay in Salt Lake City? I mean, really? I know there is a large gay population here, but it just seems so strange.”

I laughed out loud. “Strange is a good word for it. It’s unique here. The religion. The lack of diversity. And being a gay father compounds things. But I love it here.”

A few minutes later, the plane was landed and Glory gave me a small hug as we were still seated. “You’re on a good path, Chad. A good career, two beautiful kids that you clearly love. I have a feeling this year will hold good things for you.”

As I walked down the ramp, backpack on my shoulder, I waved at Glory one last time, and she smiled back. I remembered her last words, and found myself agreeing with her. ShittyCity

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