LA trip – part 6
On the flight home, I sat next to one of the younger girls, and next to her was Kenji. He was one of the two handsome tennis players and was the younger brother to the oldest pretty girl. He wore a pair of black-framed glasses on tanned, well-proportioned face, flashing an attractive, white-teethed smile. I wouldn’t have talked to him had there not been the younger girl. Three of us chatted at the start of the long flight, but soon the girl between us fell asleep. Kenji and I looked at her, then each other, and smiled.
It was the first time I enjoyed a conversation with a boy. Boys in school couldn’t hold one without 1) averting their eyes from mine, 2) taking the topic to obscenity, or 3) teasing me. Kenji not only conversed with me very naturally, but he listened to me intently and responded with praise for my strong opinions. We talked until a couple of hours before landing when Kenji fell asleep. On the other hand, I was wide awake with high stimulation on my brain and possibly with infatuation. He woke up right before the plane landed and said, “I couldn’t fight off the sleep.”
On the bus from Narita airport to home, we sat separately, and I finally fell asleep. I got off the bus before the rest of the group. My mother was there to pick me up, and she squeezed my shoulder.
I saw Kenji a few times after that when I went to high school in the same city as he lived in and went to school. He’d be riding his bicycle and pass by me, and I’d shout his name. He’d stop, turn around to speak to me for a few minutes before he hurried off to school. He never looked bothered by it but rather happy to see me, while I was awkward and nervous. I could never be the girl on the airplane again when there was just him and me enjoying the present moment in a confined space for a limited duration of time.
I wish I had pursued a friendship with him after the trip, but it was 1993, and there were no emails or texts that we could casually test the water of our compatibility. Without the tools for the less proactive, I had little courage or skills to befriend him. As I write this in 2020, I looked for him in popular social media. His profile was set private, but his profile photo showed a part of his face in sunglasses. Even with the limited view, he looked the same as I remembered him 27 years ago.