Still May 3rd, 1990
Pacific Shore Hotel, Santa Monica, California
I can’t sleep!
I swear the ten-hour flight transported us to a different planet and not just another country. The minute I got to my room (a mere twelve hours ago!) I rang David at work but for some reason it wouldn’t connect. I tried his home number but same thing, nothing. Tried both again, to no avail.
In an attempt to collect my thoughts, I stretched out on the massive bed and watched the palm trees sway against the clear blue backdrop but my mind was too jumbled to relax. “I know what I can do,” I said, bolting upright, “I’ll send him a letter!”
Off the bed, I shot and started what ended up being three pages of scribble, basically explaining I’m here and would love to see him. “If I pop the letter in the post today, he’ll get it tomorrow.”
As I write this, I’m questioning my behaviour (and sanity!) but at the time it seemed like a good idea.
With my new plan in place, I took a shower and headed down to the lobby in search of a stamp and a post box. The hotel bar is located off the lobby and has a glass wall, through which I saw some of my crew (actually I heard them before I even reached the lobby!)
We got two drink chits at check-in and on the recommendation of pretty much everybody on my crew, I ordered a Long Island Iced Tea, which went down much too smoothly.
“Is that for the Queen?” Murray, our CSD asked, gesturing to the letter I’d placed on the bar.
“No but it’s paramount that it goes out in the post, today.”
I went to the front desk where Alvin (thanks name badge!) remained distracted by a stapler and two pens, before I coughed and said, “Excuse me.”
“Yes?” he asked, without looking up.
“I need to post a letter.”
“Soooo, let me guess, you’re looking for a stamp?”
“Yes please,” I stuttered, drumming my fingers on the plastic counter. “And can you tell me where can I post it?”
“You can leave it with me.”
“When will it go out?”
He glanced at his watch and yawned. “Tomorrow.”
“Oh no! That’s too late.”
He glared at my fingers which only made me tap faster.
“How far is Manhattan Beach from here? Could I walk?”
“No,” he stated, but I know nobody walks in America so I doubted that was true.
“Thank you, Alvin,” I said in a sickly tone before heading back to the bar.
“I see you still have your precious letter,” Murray said as I sat beside him and ordered another Long Island Iced Tea.
“Yes,” I sighed. “I need to get it to, eh, a friend, by tomorrow but the post’s already gone for the day.”
“Why don’t you just get a taxi?”
“Murray, that is a brilliant idea and that is the reason you’re a Cabin Service Director!”
“Hello again, Alvin,” I chirped, as he shuffled a stack of papers in no particular fashion.
“There’s a rental car company next door,” he sneered. “They give you people a big discount.” I despised the way he said “you people,” but time was of the essence, so I let it slide.
“Thank you but I’ve decided to take a taxi.”
With the prospect of my imminent departure, Alvin looked up.
“A cab won’t be cheap.”
“It doesn’t matter, I just need to deliver this. Today.”
“I’ll get right on it.”
“Thank you, Alvin,” I said, with my biggest fake smile that will surely guarantee me taking home the Oscar for the lead role in, “Insincere.”
I went back to the bar and ordered another Long Island Iced Tea that I promptly gulped down.
“Woo!” I exclaimed, shaking my head.
“All sorted?” Murray asked.
“Thanks to your suggestion. Yes!”
I noticed I slurred when I said, “suggestion” but that’s not the easiest word to pronounce, especially with vodka and rum running rampant through your system.
Through the glass wall I caught Alvin’s eye and held up my empty glass. “Cheers,” I mouthed. He suppressed a smile and nodded to the outside, where the taxi was waiting.
“Must dash, Murray. I’m off to post my letter!”
“You girls,” he said, shaking his bald head.
“How long will it take?” I asked the taxi driver.
“Forty minutes? Longer? Depends on the traffic.”
“Oh, it’s that far?”
“Not in miles but with the rush hour traffic and…”
He continued talking but I was too distracted by the sights to hear anything more as I made myself comfortable in the back seat, clutching the letter on my lap.
The traffic was just as he predicted, pretty busy for the majority of the drive, until all of a sudden, we took a sharp right turn and I glanced up to see the sign for Seaview Street. I felt my face break into a wide smile and my stomach do a little somersault.
The street was narrow, with houses on both sides, painted in various pastel hues, no more than two stories tall. Several of the upper levels had French doors that opened to tiny balconies with cascading, vibrant coloured flowers that tumbled halfway down the wall.
The road sloped as we made our way towards the glistening sea, a view, that for as long as I live, I’ll never forget. I was staring straight ahead, when the taxi came to an abrupt stop and tossed me forward.
The driver mouthed, “Sorry,” in the mirror.
“Is this it?” I asked.
“Four A you said?”
“Uh, yes,” I uttered as my stomach lurched at the sight of a bunch of toys scattered across the stone patio.
“Wait a minute,” he said, leaning across the passenger seat. “Looks like four a is upstairs.”
I craned my neck to see a flight of bright orange stairs, adorned on one side with terracotta pots, filled with flowers and at the top of the stairs, a decorative tile attached to the wall. “4A.”
“Oh, so it’s not that one?” I said, pointing to the toys.
“No, the kid stuff is four b. A’s upstairs.”
I looked around hoping to see a mail box like the ones I’ve seen in films but there was nothing of the sort.
“Where can I post this?”
He pointed to the base of the stairs. “See that black thing on the wall, right there?”
“Great, don’t leave! I’ll be right back.”
I stepped slowly out of the taxi and the view was just as David had described in his letters and phone chats. The sea sparkled and I was so close I could hear the waves.
“I made it,” I said, to no one in particular.
“You ok?” the taxi driver asked.
“Yeah, I’m fine, thanks,” I uttered, swallowing the lump in my throat. “I’ll just be a minute.”
I took a deep breath and when I opened the lid on the mail receptacle, it creaked. I thought of all the cards and letters I sent to that very spot from all over the world and was just about to drop the letter in, when I heard, “Karen!”
“Shit!” I squealed, jumping, with such a fright that I dropped the letter. I quickly picked it up and looked to the top of the stairs, where David was standing, with his mouth agape.
“I wrote you a letter,” I said, waving it in the air.
To say he looked gob smacked is a major understatement! He ran down the stairs and suddenly there he was, standing in front of me.
“Hey you!” he said, with the biggest smile.
I was too shocked to respond.
He gave me a questioning look. “Are you ok? Do I need to read the letter now?”
Thinking that was the most bizarre thing for him to ask, I started laughing then babbled on about the beach and the light and the waves and the palm trees and blah, blah, blah.
“You’re here,” he whispered, kissing my cheek “I don’t believe it.”
“I just wanted to deliver this,” I blurted.
He gestured to the taxi. “You’re staying, right?”
“Ehm, yeah, if that’s ok?”
“Of course it’s ok. I’ll be right back,” he said, peering into the taxi.
“No worries, man.”
I watched him bound up the stairs, two at a time.
“You good?” the taxi driver asked.
“Eh, yes, I think so. Thank you.”
“Pretty view, huh?”
I sighed. “It’s incredible.”
David reappeared and I heard the taxi driver say, “Eighty-two, man.”
“Thanks dude, it’s all yours.”
“Cool, man. Peace,” the taxi driver said, honking the horn as he drove off.
David took my hand and we stood, facing the sea for a minute before he gestured to the stairs.
“After you,” he smiled, stepping back.
He showed me around his house (so lovely) and I left the letter on the kitchen table before he led me to the stairs up to the roof terrace.
“Isn’t it awesome? This is where I spend most of my time.”
We drank wine as we watched the sun go down and got reacquainted as the dark settled.
“All the way to LA,” he laughed, “just to go to London.”
I pretended to smack his leg. “Cheeky!”
“This is crazy,” he said. “Why didn’t you tell me you were coming?”
“I think I was too nervous in case, I don’t know, in case it wasn’t what I thought it would be.”
“And is it?”
“It’s more,” I said, kissing him.
“What would you like to do?”
“Can we go for a walk?”
“Uh-huh, I want to see everything.”
The Strand is the beach area where people roller-blade, walk dogs, bike, jog, stroll. Even in the dark, people were still out in droves with kids and dogs and bikes, some with plastic bubble shaped extensions with kids inside, waving as they sped past.
David was still in his shorts and t-shirt and I felt ridiculously overdressed in a skirt, top and heeled sandals, so I took them off and walked barefoot.
“That didn’t take long,” he chuckled.
“For some reason, I was expecting it to be more like New York.”
“Nah, this is so cal, we’re much more laid back here on the West Coast.”
“Ah yes,” I sighed. “Beautiful Southern California.”
I had a cocktail in each of the two bars we went to but between the excitement and the alcohol, I was beginning to feel sleepy. We headed back to the rooftop terrace and after a marathon kissing session, David excused himself and returned with a bowl of ice cream. It was slathered in a mint liquor and he fed it to me, spoonful after spoonful, while we sank deeper into the couch, with the only light around us coming from several candles.
“Can you stay? Or do you need to be at your crew hotel?”
“No, I don’t need to be there but I didn’t bring anything with me.”
“Except for the letter,” he laughed.
“Yeah and I can’t brush my teeth with that!”
“Well it’s up to you. Unfortunately, I do need to go to work tomorrow because a certain someone didn’t tell me she was coming six thousand miles to say hi.”
“I don’t want to get in the way of anything, I know you’re busy.”
“Traffic gets going real early here in the morning so if you want I’ll take you back to the hotel. If we go tonight, it’ll take less than half the time it will in the am.”
“Cool. Can I see you tomorrow when you finish work?”
“Nah,” he said, shaking his head. “No can do e.”
My heart immediately sank and my face must’ve showed it.
“I’m kidding, I’m kidding!”
“You little bugger, you had me there!”
“Trust me,” he said. “If I didn’t have clients in from Japan, I’d stay home.”
A few of my crew were still in the bar and Murray waved and gestured for us to join them.
“I see you delivered your letter,” he smiled, nodding his head in David’s direction.
“Thanks,” I mouthed.
“A nightcap for all, please, bartender!”
“Nightcap? Murray, mate,” the First Class purser shouted from the other end of the bar. “It’s nine in the morning in London!”
“Yeah but this is LA baby,” Murray responded. “This is LA!”
David took only a sip of the tequila shot Murray insisted on ordering and Maxine slid off the bar stool and sauntered, not steadily, in our direction. Proving that drunk people lose all ability to speak quietly, she put her mouth to my ear and in a tone louder than the megaphone we carry onboard for emergencies, she shouted, “Where’d ya find ‘im?”
“Onboard,” I said quietly, rubbing my ear.
“Murray, luv,” she yelled. “Av you got a key to the plane? I need to get back onboard ash soon ash posh a bull!”
I didn’t dare look at David and he made no attempt to acknowledge any of it so we said goodnight and he and Murray shook hands.
“Cheers mate,” Murray said, slapping David’s shoulder.
“Drop. Dead. Gaw. Jus,” Maxine screeched, as we made our way out of the bar.
The second we were out of sight, David and I cracked up laughing.
“I’m so sorry about that. I think we’re all a little worse for wear with the eight-hour time change.”
“No problem at all,” he said, pressing the button for the lift.
“This feels like Delhi all over again,” I said.
“No,” he whispered, kissing me. “This feels like Delhi.”
And just like we did last year in Delhi, we kissed as several lifts came and went before we finally said goodbye but as high as I floated that night, I’m floating much, much higher tonight.