I tap my foot against the polished floor of the airport. The reflection of people passing by, the sound of wheels kissing the ceramic, the chatter of strangers, and the smell of coffee all harmonize in systemic chaos only enjoyable in a place such as an airport.
I look at my watch and then back at the screen that says the flight has been delayed because of bad weather. I jerk my neck left and right and crack every vertebrate in it. I feel the gaze of someone sitting next to me. I turn and see a little girl emulating what I had just done. I chuckle. Fortunately for her, she isn't that stressed.
I lean back and pull my phone out. I reply to texts, emails, and comments on social media. I get bored quickly so I decide to close my eyes. I go straight into memory lane.
"Hey, Mr. leather jacket." She tapped my shoulder. "I like your style. What's your name?" She asked as she stretched her hand with her head slightly tilted to the left. She chewed on a piece of gum like there was no tomorrow.
"Alfonso," I said looking left and right, accomodating my backpack and finally reaching out for her hand. "You?"
"Alice," She smiled as she gently let me engulf her little hand in mine. Her short hair made her look boyish and her Hawaiian shirt was three times her size. She wore Bermudas and sandals.
Back in the present, I chuckle at the oddity. I think it's the first time I remember what someone was wearing. I can't even remember what my wife was wearing this morning. She ought to never find out. I take a deep breath. Hold it. Three... two... one.... exhale.
I open my eyes. The girl who was sitting next to me was gone and so were the minutes. Did I dream about Alice? or was that a memory? Either case, it made the passage of time more bearable. Remembering is reliving. My grandpa would say, so I dive back into memory lane.
"This is my girlfriend, Jane." she pointed at a girl wearing a sunflower-patterned sundress. She smiled and for a moment her smile seemed to make her sunflowers grow. I shook her hand and introduced myself.
"How may I help you?" I start formally. They looked at each other, snickered, and then burst out laughing.
"'ow may I 'elp 'ou?" Alice mocked me as she crossed her eyes. Jane giggled. I frowned. "Dude, you're here standing by yourself, we came here to help you!" she emphasized. Jane nodded her head in agreement.
"What?" I raised an eyebrow.
"Don't worry." Alice walked towards me and tried to place her arm around my shoulders, but she was too short so she settled on placing it on the middle of my back. "Listen," We started walking, "nobody wants to be seen by themselves on their first day of college. It's a bad premonition."
"Bad premonition," Jane repeated as she waved hi to everyone and smiled like she knew them all.
"Jane I love you!" Someone shouted.
"Don't make me kick your ass, Julius!" Alice menaced, Jane giggled, I chuckled (in the memory and in the present. It made me feel at ease, just like I felt then.) "Anyways, where was I?" She hummed.
"Bad premonition." I assisted.
"Oh, yeah, bad premotion." she started again. "You see, humans are social creatures. right?"
"Right," I nodded.
"We enjoy others' presence. We make tribes that we call friends and those friends sometimes become family. Right?"
"Right," I said nodding at the realization.
"This is the yeast of it all, my friend." She said, "When people see a person by themselves, they tend to think they lack social skills. Or when they see a person with others, they tend to think that person is popular, social, a source of connections, an edge to success." She said. My gears started turning. She. Was. Right. How had I not seeing that before? How could've been so clueless? Was this the reason I was so lonely through high school? Was this the reason I always seemed to push people away? My mind was blown.
"Social life in college can be life-saving." She continued, "I'm not talking about parties, fraternities, sororities or that Hollywood hyped bullshit. No, no, no. I'm talking about helping each other be part of a family." She stepped in front of me. "A family of your choice." She gave me a sympathetic smile.
"A family of my choice," I repeat under my breath.
"Oh god," She wrinkled her forehead.
"What?" I asked.
"Can you believe we looked like this in high school?" She turned to Jane.
"Yes, I can." She said without looking at her in the eye. She waved hi to someone from afar.
"Let's go," Alice pulled me by my hand. "There's a lot you need to learn." Needless to say, I had the time of my life with those two girls.
We partied together. We studied together. We had break downs together. We graduated college together. We got our corporate jobs, and quit them to pursue what we really wanted together. We moved in together. We laughed together. We cried together. We achieved together. And we lived together until our dreams and ambitions called for us to grow apart. We departed not to never see each other again, but to grow in bond. And what a bond.
I take a deep, soothing breath. I exhale ever so slowly. The memory intensifies in colors and emotions.
"I like your style, old man." I break a smile at the sweet sound of their united voices. I chuckle. I can feel their playful gaze. I open my eyes to the sight of twin girls in oversized sunflower-patterned Hawaiian shirts, Bermudas, and sandals. They beam with sparks in their dancing in their eyes. I take my eyes from them and meet their moms'. The three of us smile at each other. I get up from my chair and walk towards them. Towards my found family.