Almost two years ago exactly, I was sitting aboard a plane. My stomach churning, the parfait I had in Denver gurgling about, threatening to come up.
The child next to me had never flown before. Maybe 4 years old and sitting with his grandpa, he provided a nice distraction from my thoughts as I pointed out the mountains below. However, he soon fell asleep, toy cars in hand, leaving me alone with my thoughts and fears.
Denver to Orange County was a quick flight, though. Quicker than I'd imagined. The pilot announced our descent into John Wayne Airport, telling us that it was a beautiful 75 degrees.
I remember every bit of it.
As soon as they announced that we could use our cell phones, I hit the “On” button and swiftly type out my text.
My stomach in knots, my heart pounding, Making my way to the restroom, I decided to mess with my hair and make myself presentable since I'd been flying all day.
"You’re early, I’m sorry! I'm stuck in traffic. I'll be there in a few.”
I put my contacts in, choosing to wear my glasses for the flight since they'd dry my eyes out.
"I'll meet you at baggage claim.” I typed as I realized it would only be a few minutes longer.
I made my way down there, collected my bags and waited. California traffic is said to be horrible, but seconds felt like hours and my legs were giving out from the nerves. To steady myself, I leaned against a pole.
The buzzing of my phone brought me to attention and made me jump.
"Where are you?"
My heart flip-flopped and my breakfast threatened to come up.
"By baggage claim number 1, next to the women's restroom and the rental car counter".
"I was just there! I didn't see you!" Apparently I had chosen the wrong side of the pole; the one closest to the bathroom and hid me from view.
"I'm behind the pole.” My heart jumped again; threatening to leave my chest this time and explode all over the airport floor. Not a way for him to find me, I thought to myself.
I started playing with my phone, a much needed distraction from the time that ticked by oh so painfully slow. I glanced up and see a smiling face come toward me. His smiling face. We embraced, not sure what to say other than "Hi".
We hugged for several minutes afraid to let go because what if wasn’t real? Or what if it was and we must talk to one another?
We walked to his car, I strained for conversation so I didn’t just look at my shoes and hide within my shell.
"Did you know they say that there's more palm trees in South Carolina than any other state? Though I don't believe it now that I'm here..."
I rambled on and on, he didn't seem to mind. My hotel is across the street, the first place we go to drop off my stuff. I signed in as he stood a few feet away, Wondering to myself, I realized that I was letting a man I’d never met in person before accompany me to my hotel room alone. Not to mention, I’d read his stories and that alone could scare some people away....
But I trusted him and we hugged some more once we were along in the room. We talked and quickly discovered that we bantered back and forth just as we had done through comments and texts. We never stopped talking.
I'd never been to California, so our first stop was the beach. We visited the Huntington Beach Pier and watched the surfers, something I'd never seen in real life. Holding hands while both being very shy, we made our way down the pier and back before heading to dinner.
We followed the evening up with going back to my hotel for a little one-on-one fun and indulge in one of our favorite pastimes: Scrabble
No, seriously, we played Scrabble well into the night and I kicked his butt, as always.
The next day we trekked out to the Balboa Peninsula, where we rode the ferris wheel overlooking the water. He gripped my leg as we went higher and higher. Wanting to impress me, he endured the ride even though he is absolutely afraid of heights. Both being kids at heart, we followed up the ride with a funnel cake and some corn dogs and we shared bits with the pigeons, laughing as they scrambled clumsily for the scraps.
(For the visually impaired: The first photo is of the Balboa Peninsula, primarily the teeny ferris wheel we went on. He second photo is from atop the ferris wheel, where he gripped my leg tightly enough to practically leave marks.We can see the entire peninsula from this viewpoint.)
I told that him I needed to put my feet in the ocean, so we went down to the beach. Playfully, I ran into the waves and acted very much like the children I saw playing alongside me.
He didn’t mind; he thought it was cute. Or so he said.
(The above photo is of me, with my horrible haircut I'd written about last week, standing in front of the ocean, preparing to hand him my cell phone so I could run and romp in the waves.)
Oh Monday, dreadful Monday... He escorted me back to the airport. We hugged some more and this time we didn’t want to let go because we didn’t know when or if we’d ever see each other again? I told him that I'd do everything I could to be back soon. His eyes told me he wasn’t sure he believed it. I was scared to make promises I had no control over keeping, but I knew what I wanted more than anything else. I wanted to be here with him.
How soon? I didn't know. It depended on rather or not I got the job.
I got back to Missouri late Monday night and I just knew. I just knew that I'd get to go back. While it excited me, it terrified me at the same time.
I turned my car on, the radio started playing California Girls by Katy Perry. I laughed at the irony, but I have a seething hatred for Katy Perry, so I changed it quickly. The next station? Also played California Girls by Katy Perry.
What a stupid, overly popular song I thought to myself as I changed the channel to a classic rock station that should be Katy Perry free. No more drunken sex songs for me.
But what was playing?
Hotel California. I sang along as I hit the highway and then it dawned on me... It’s another California song. Laughing to myself, I jokingly wondered if it was a sign, but I brushed it off as a coincidence.
The entire week before I heard back the company I interviewed with, the radio played every California song known to man. Katy Perry was met with The Eagles. If I flipped through, I had California Love by Tupac, Dani California or Californication by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, On one station, they accidentally played California Girls not once, but twice in a row. As my nieces were in the car and liked pop music, I let it play. Not once, but twice as I tried to keep myself from retching at the sickening lyrics.
Maybe it was me just looking for the signs, but somewhere... I felt like it was telling me to go. Terrified to leave my family and everything I knew in Missouri, I needed a gentle nudge to tell me "this is the thing to do”.
At this time, I’d also interviewed for a local, St. Louis position and was on my way home from that when I really looked at my city and realized how much I loved it. It was almost like the radio had read my mind... A song from the rapper Nelly came on, singing the praises of my home town as I drove through the city, wondering if I could ever really leave.
Not wanting to deal with my thoughts on this subject, especially since I hadn’t even got a job offer from either place, I hit the knob on the radio, hoping to find something mindless and fun, something without hidden meanings I could interpret.
Then my phone rang. I did the stupid thing and answered while driving; they wanted to offer me the job.
Which job? The one in California. Freaking out, I told them I’d call them back once I got home. My head was going “Oh my God, Oh my God, OH MY GOD!” Those were the only words I could articulate at that moment.
California Dreamin’ by the Mamas and the Poppas started playing on the classic rock station I’d switched it too.
The Universe had given me the nudge I needed. Or rather it beat me over the head with it over and over until I knew what I needed to do. I listened.
Two years in, I still love the sand, the sun, the surf of California. I’ve hugged palm trees (as well as my boyfriend) time and time again. The Hollywood sign still makes me giddy like a kid on Christmas and I can’t drive down the street without going "I’m in California!” It still hasn’t hit me that this is home.
I’ve had a newfound appreciation for all California songs, especially California Love by Tupac which I cheesily love to jam to while driving down the palm tree lined roads. I feel hip or something, now recognizing the streets and towns from the songs.
However, I still hate Katy Perry. Nothing in the world is going to change that.
(This is entry two out of three for Week 34 of therealljidol. You don't have to read them in any particular order as they aren't connected. Thank you for reading, and as always, I urge you to check out the community for more great reads!