I was seated in 17C. He sat alone in 14C.
If my posture was both correct and very erect, I could see him. I could see his head and fractions of his body.
Two of his all-time very best Poetry books, “Flying Around the Room” and “Nine Horses” were in my carry-on bag. I was just reading the poems in “The Art of Drowning” last week. Did I conjure him up? Was he traveling alone? What was he reading? Could we do lunch?
I saw him dive into his carry-on and pull out massive Bose headphones. No subtle message there. If ever there was an object that screamed, “Do not talk to me,” its the “Big Boys Bose” headphones.
Craning my neck, I saw a small fraction of his head, shoulder and arm. I casually stretched to gain a better vantage and decided my bag could actually live in an overhead bin, for a while, thus providing me an excuse to stand up and move closer to Billy Collins.
Nonchalantly, I rose – happily discovering that my bin was filled to the max – which would allow me to move, oh, so close, to Billy. A great mental debate ensued, “To hi or not to hi.”
A passionate fan for well over a decade – I owned a copy of every one of his books and gave a copy of Litany to every recent boyfriend. I’d seen Billy, in-person, in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Plus, I had his books in my carry-on. Kismet. I was an A-1, authentic devotee. We both wrote poetry. We both used the word “perfervid” fervently. I had once memorized his poem on memory loss and our writing group did a whole session on his poem “Consolation.”
While I gathered courage and feigned nonchalance, a voluptuous redhead in black leather pants and high heel boots, swaggered her way down the aisle
and slipped in next to my Billy Collins.
I watched – pretending not to be staring– as he removed his Big Bose and started conversing with the hussy. I could feel myself bristling and slowly turning into Kathy Bates in Misery. I imagine the people sitting next to me thought I was acting like a pop-up prairie dog.
Hey! If I’d gotten this close to Billy – what would it take to invoke Michael Chabon? I’d both read the book and shopped on Telegraph Avenue; had seen the movie Wonder Boys, I was cavalier and liked clay. Okay, so that was a stretch.
Dejected and rejected, for the next hour I listened to Lyle Lovett and I buried my head in Sun magazine.
Once (okay, twice) I sat very tall and looked – they were quaffing and chatting.
There was no consolation.
Well, actually, I did have that lovely book of poems by my new very favorite poet, David Whyte… Everything is Waiting for You.