CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, USA – July 3, 1998 – My subconscious was trying to tell me something.

She sat at an information kiosk – one of those help-yourself, walk-up workstations – in the lower level of O’Hare. Short dress, long curly blonde hair clipped back, long legs crossed as she intently browsed the screen.

I had been sleeping, upstairs, on a bench near my gate, during an early-morning, three-hour layover from LA to DC. Groggy, I was wandering around trying to find a clock so I could set my watch to the correct time and timezone when I passed by her.

A stunning cross between Daryl Hannah and Denise Crosby, I don’t think she saw me as I approached. But I couldn’t avert my eyes, and I felt that old mix of excitement and tension as I walked past.

I went back to my bench and laid back down. I tossed and turned, trying to get comfortable, but couldn’t sleep. After a few minutes, I sat back up, and as I rubbed my eyes, I saw her sitting on a bench near mine. Nervous and excited, I got up to use the phone, and when I came back, the only open seat was near her.

Somehow, we began talking. I felt a little self-conscious about my slept-in blazer and night’s worth of scruffiness. Then we began flirting. Her face broke out into a beautiful smile. We talked, for what seemed like hours, and flirted the whole time. As we drew closer and closer together, I was overcome with an urge to kiss her, right there, in front of everyone at the gate.

So I did.

She kissed back and my heart jumped.

I wrapped my arms around her and we kept kissing there, oblivious to the world. “Eric,” she said, smiling and pulling away from a particularly long and enjoyable kiss, “we… we can’t do this.”

“Why not?” I smiled. I was intoxicated with her, her face, her faint perfume, her lips, her skin.

“Because… you already have a girlfriend.”

“I do not!” I retorted. I looked at her quizzically. “Who would that be?”

She smiled at me, head tilted.

“You know. Cindy.”

I was stunned. “What… how… how did you know about her? I haven’t mentioned her. She can’t be my girlfriend! She’s…. she’s… ”

GOOD MORNING LADIES AND GENTLEMEN. WE’RE ALMOST READY TO BEGIN PREBOARDING FOR FLIGHT 574 SERVICE TO WASHINGTON DULLES…

The announcement jolted me awake on my bench by Gate 75B at Chicago O’Hare, and my dream girl vanished.

I got up to find a clock.

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