Friday, May 19, 2006

Hans

I wrote this in 1995 ... true story.


I could feel my heart pounding as I leaned on the window. I could almost see the Atlantic Ocean below. But
that was impossible – we were flying at 27,000 feet, too high up to see any ocean.

I closed my eyes again. Everyone on the plane appeared to be sleeping or reading.

My mind raced as fast as my heart. How long had it been since I first called the travel agent?
I couldn't help but smile as I nestled back in my seat, one hand touching my seatbelt for safety confirmation.
I could see it all now. I could see him now. He would be waiting for me at the airport, with his boyish, dimpled grin and tossled hair, a light touch of gray at the temples.
I sighed as I made myself comfortable. I had asked for a window seat, near the wing. There was a slight obstruction to my view, but it was well worth the piece of mind that it provided. Planes were always stronger near the center of the fuselage. I longed to remove my shoes but I wouldn't dare. It just wasn't safe.
And safe, I was. Always safe. Always doing the right thing.
So I dressed carefully for the flight -- heavy jeans, long sleeve cotton shirt, short leather boots and my driving gloves close at hand, just in case. If I was going to fly for hours in a jet, I was going to be appropriately dressed -- just in case we needed to make an emergency landing.
I closed my eyes again and thought back twelve months. One year. Was that all? So much had changed....
It had been a beautiful February work day. I had been running the office for almost 10 years. I enjoyed working with my colleague, Louis. He was a lot like me. When it came to business, we thought alike and took our work very serious. We rarely took a day off.
I ran the office, the phone lines, and the computer. Louis did most of the leg work, from agency presentations to completing the necessary physical exams. We had three others working for us, but none with the same dedication or enthusiasm.
I stared at the reflection on the screen. Brown hair, brown eyes, and a beautiful smile looked back at me -- very nice looking for a 30-something year old mother of three.
It was Friday and time for lunch. I poured myself a cup of coffee and went back to my computer. Exiting all other programs, I logged on to Compuserve and settled into my favorite forum – the Netherlands forum.
I went there often trying to locate my friend, Dinant, who recently moved to Amsterdam.
The Netherlands forum was always full at noon. My lunch hour meant that it was 9 p.m. in Holland, a perfect time to find a room full of people to chat with. I became intrigued by the Dutch and soon became a regular, making several friends – and one very special friend – along the way.
It was there that I met Eddy, and a true friendship soon blossomed. Eddy was a sweet boy and a good friend but nothing more.
Hans was a different story. Hans made my heart skip.
I met Hans in late February and by March I was quite attracted to his persona on screen. It appeared to be a mutual feeling. By April, I was totally smitten by this man with a little boy's grin. He was almost too good to be true. Hans was 40, spoke 5 languages, had blonde hair, blue eyes, and worked as a financial lawyer for Her Majesty at The Hague.
Hans was mature and self confident -- a hard working man who had also written a musical. He seemed genuinely interested in everything I had to say. Everything I knew about him mesmerized me -- from his cologne, he wore Hugo Boss, to his hobbies and sports – he fenced. I had never met anyone who fenced before. It all seemed like a fairytale dream.
Hans made me laugh. I had not been that happy in years. I could not wait to meet him in real life. I longed to touch his face and run my fingers through his hair. His touch of gray was appealing. It made him appear distinctive and sexy. I couldn't get him out of my mind -- or the thought of visiting him someday.
That is when I decided to do it. I always wanted to go to Holland anyway. But, the trip's main reason would be to see Hans. If I didn't see any sights nor did anything else, it didn't matter. All that mattered was that I meet this one man, say hello in person, and spend a few days talking and laughing with him – in person.
Hans was very excited and couldn’t believe that I would fly half way across the world to see him.
I sighed as I made myself more comfortable in my seat. I didn't mind the long hours on the jet. Not really. It gave me time to think. I glanced around, I could start a conversation with the man in the seat next to me, but I didn't want to. I closed my eyes, leaned back, and a small smile appeared on my face as I got back to my deep thoughts. I could still remember the day that I received my ticket ....
I ordered a last-minute online bargain ticket to Amsterdam and finally packed my suitcase a week before departure. I was ready.
I knew Hans and I would have fun, regardless of whether or not any romantic sparks ignited between the two of us in real life.
And then it happened. My estranged husband suddenly seemed upset. We had been separated for three years but never officially divorced. He knew about the trip and had appeared understanding and supportive. He had agreed to keep the children while I was gone. I still remember his hurt face as he handed me an envelope.
"Federal Express came by while I was here picking up some things," he said, "Here's your tickets".
I was so excited. One ticket to Amsterdam! I held it in my hand. It was too good to be true. Suddenly the trip sounded so very real but James looked hurt.
"You're really going?" he asked softly.
I sat on the edge of the bed, staring at my suitcase.
"Yes. You knew I was.”
"But I didn't really think you'd leave.”
I saw his pain. It was the same look, the same pain, that I myself had felt three years earlier when he packed his belongings, told me that he was in love with someone else and walked out the door, leaving my life totally crushed on New Year’s Day.
"I really didn't think you were going...." he cried openly, tears running down his cheeks.
I had rarely seen him cry -- maybe once or twice in our 12 years of marriage – and it moved me to tears. I felt so torn. My heart was telling me to go but I couldn't bear to hurt this man. I felt torn. We had three little girls together. I felt I still owed him something, regardless of what he had done to me. Regardless of how he had hurt me.
And what would I tell Hans? He was expecting me.
"Please don't go, " James was almost begging of me now, "I do love you."
I looked at him through tears. I had waited three years to hear those words, but now, it was too late - though, legally, I was still his wife.
I took a deep breath and with all the courage I had, I whispered: "I'm sorry. I have to go.”
"Please fasten your seatbelts and make sure that your seats are in an upright position,” I heard in the distance, bringing me back to the present.
I smiled at the people around me and glanced out the window. I saw the runway approaching as I anxiously awaited the jet to successfully touch down.
I sighed with relief; I was safe on the ground once more. Soon I would be getting off the plane. My eyes started stinging.
Was I doing the right thing? Was it alright sometimes to follow your heart?
Why, oh why, did I always have to do the "safe" thing?
My heart ached. How would I ever know if I had done the right thing? Everyone around me seemed certain of their lives. Everyone else seemed happy.
I discreetly wiped a tear as I picked up my carry-on luggage and stepped towards the front of the plane.
The stewardess smiled.
"Welcome to Hawaii, land of Paradise."
Suddenly I felt an arm around my shoulder.
"I love you" James whispered to me.
I turned and looked at my husband. I smiled numbly but I couldn't say a thing. Not yet, for my heart was across another ocean -- many, many, miles away.






7 comments:

  1. This is a powerfully emotional story, Esther. Torn between past, present, future, and what if's?
    Very well written! :)

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  2. Thank you. I wrote this in 1995 - wow, that was 10 years ago.

    I finally went to the Netherlands in 1996 and met my Hans and Eddy and a whole lot of other great people.

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  3. I cried with you. That was quite a story. Keep writing!

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  4. I'm with Jeff. Such a powerful story and ending. In retrospect, was it the right choice?

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  5. I believe everything works out for a reason. I can't help but think of Garth Brooks and his "Unanswered Prayers" song.

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  6. Anonymous2:04 AM

    Oh Esther, the sweet magic questions your wonderful story raises! Hawaii must be a True Land of Paradise - at any rate, until it's time for you to go (as Buffy Sainte-Marie would have it)...

    From Holland, a Land of Milk, with love,

    Hans

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  7. Oh, my sweet Hans. :) Thank you for stopping by my blog. Meeting you in Holland was something I'll always treasure and never forget.

    Your American HoneyGirl forever.

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