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Dreaming of the Netherlands


I noticed her heel-click-hip-twist hourglass silhouette as we walked toward bright light at the end of a long corridor between Terminal B and Terminal C. My husband, teenage son, and all the other travelers flowed past on the electric walkway, she and I the only ones who'd chosen to move on our own locomotion. She clicked along a good twenty feet ahead of me, blonde hair in a chignon, a few locks flying loose around her face. She trod with long-strided purpose. But her heels could not outpace my flats. I caught up, though I did not overtake her. That's when I noticed the zipper pull on the back of her uniform: a little silver plane-shaped pendant hanging three or four inches from the top of the zipper on a blue jeweled chain.

Did the dress come that way? I asked.

No, she said.

I like it.

Thanks, she said. She smiled with dimples.

I blushed.

The winged pin on her chest, which I'd hoped would say her name, said "The Netherlands".

I'd never been. So many places I'd been… But not there.

I slowed my stride to match hers. She noticed me noticing.

You should come, she said.

We both walked more slowly. She brushed the inside of my palm with her fingertips.

I should, I said, blushing harder.

My men hailed me from the end of the hall like a pair of foregone conclusions: I hurried to rejoin them.

I didn't know then we'd be on the same flight, where she would serve me water and champagne, coq au vin, strawberry tarts, honeydew like a plate of crescent moons, and for breakfast, an omelet and rose-petal tea; where my men would sleep, one row up, snoring, farting, oblivious; where I'd spend the eight and a half hours between Boston and Paris awake, dreaming of pulling her zipper; where she would offer, in the dark, on her break, somewhere over the Atlantic, to "tuck me in;" and where I would, foolishly, decline.

Notes from the Author
When people ask me about the inspiration for this story, often what they're really asking is: Did this, or something like this, happen to me? But if I told them, it would violate the boundary between fiction and nonfiction, fantasy and reality, and completely upend the philosophical underpinnings of my story. And I think it's important to be circumspect about upending one's underpinnings...