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Second Chance Love
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Dedicated to Karen King
Submitted by Mike
No advance purchases, Saturday stayovers, cancellation fees, or jammed cabins. Stewardesses (translate to 2004 P.C.: flight attendants) were female, young, perky and actually served food. It was the 1960s. Visitors met passengers at gates, pilots allowed youngsters to visit the cockpit or those same pilots might wander through the cabin with their friendly banter.
Passengers dressed for flights; hats and gloves for women, a sport coat and a tie for men. Flying was fun, an adventure, a lifetime dream for many.
For the Hawaii flights the stewardesses wore fresh leis and muumuus, island music was piped into the cabin as the Boeing 707 waited at the departure gate. In flight the hibiscus blossoms accented breakfast, lunch or dinner plates.
PanAm was years away from bankruptcy. The 707s cut flight time from San Francisco to Honolulu to 5-hours. As I looked out over the Pacific and felt the slight altitude change after those five hours I was nervous. Almost there, almost ready to meet by high school sweetheart after my two-year failed marriage, almost ready to again feel the tropical sun. After high school I had visited her in the Islands. We danced at the Haleakulani, sat under tiki torches on the Waikiki sand, planned for future.
Would she meet me at the airport this time? I had sent a brief telegram. That was it.
The 707 banked to the right after descending along the Waikiki shoreline, blue-green water dazzling and the Koalulu mountains range topped with puffy clouds.
Touchdown, the powerful engines reversed, abruptly slowing the 150-mile per hour landing speed to taxi mode and a stop at the gate. The smell of tropical flowers and the wet warmth entered the cabin as the front exit door was opened.
Through my tiny window I could see the waiting crowd at the gate. Waves, tears, children on shoulders. I didn't see her.
From the back of the narrow cabin I made my way to the exit. The steep stairs led to the tarmac and the terminal entrance. Off to the side she waited with a fresh lei, walked toward me and placed the garland around my neck followed by a quick kiss on the cheek.
"Aloha," she said. "Welcome to the islands" This was her home.
"Thank you for being here," I said, my throat dry and my shirt wet from nervous perspiration. She looked exactly the same. I flashed back to senior proms, holding hands at a high school football game, the first clumsy kiss, the promise of a lifetime together.
It didn't work out then, it didn't work out this time. Too many years, too much baggage. I still have the lei. I visit Hawaii frequently and still expect to see her standing in the terminal.
The lei's fragrance has disappeared, the flowers brittle. But memories of a first love are fresh.