by Eddie Lando
A widow makes a change when she picks up a flashy businessman headed for the airport
|Liza was miserable when Connor died. She used to love walking through the city exploring coffee shops while Connor worked and supported their marriage. She started driving for Uber to get by, driving through the city trying to make sense of what to do next.
“Straight to the airport.” Jake hopped in the car, sliding across the backseat behind the driver’s side door. He wore a clean suit and smiled with all his teeth in his Uber profile picture. The two of them drove in silence for the first five minutes while Jake stared at his phone. Liza remembered how Connor used to do the same thing.
“Mind if I smoke?”
“Yes, go ahead.”
Jake lit both cigarettes and passed one to Liza.
“How do you like living in the city?”
Liza thought of the nearest coffee shop as they turned towards the highway.
“I’m ready for a change.”
Jake dragged off his cigarette and smiled.
“Want to go to Portland? My business partner was supposed to come with me and we couldn’t cancel his ticket in time. He had to stay here so I have an extra.”
Jake was half-joking but Liza was half-considering it. She’d heard the donuts and coffee shops were cozy under the rain of the Pacific Northwest.
Jake looked up.
“Well it’s actually a flexible return trip so you could go as long as you want. Looking for some sales tax free fun?”
Liza dragged off her cigarette.
“If you’re serious I’ll do it.”
“Yeah, why wouldn’t I be? Can’t get the money back anyway. You don’t have any bags though?”
“That’s okay. I can come back anytime.”
They were arriving at the airport. Liza turned away from the departures drop off and pulled into the long-term parking lot. 45 minutes and a security check later, she and Jake were sitting in a booth at a bar next to their gate.
Liza had been mostly quiet until now, except for required answers at check in. Jake liked her brevity. She spoke like she knew what she wanted to the airport staff. The waitress came to their booth.
“I’ll have a Kahlua and coffee,” Liza said. “Do you want one? They’re my favorite.”
“Um, yes, but make it a decaf?”
“No problem. I’ll be right over.”
Liza looked at Jake.
“So what do you do?”
“I’m in consulting. But what about you? How did you make such a decision? So spontaneous.”
Connor used to be a suit-wearing big shot and a big smile, Liza thought. He also had an ambiguous job title that had to do with business. General Manager, I think it was, for a large corporation. Liza loved it. It meant she had no idea what his job was, but the more vague the title the more money people often made. She found irony in it. She’d never cared about the money. She just loved the comfort of a simple title.
“My husband died a few months ago. I have nowhere to go but up.”
“It’s all right. I’ve heard Portland has nice coffee shops. I love coffee.”
“Hence the drink orders.”
The drinks came. The minutes went by fast and the boarding time arrived. Jake and Liza got on.
“You didn’t tell me it was first class,” Liza said when they arrived at the seats. They ordered more coffee and then champagne. Liza could see straight into her past with every sip. Connor had taken her on many business trips. He’d smoked and let her drink whatever she wanted. She could smell him on Jake’s jacket.
The flight to Portland was short, especially with all the pampering. As the flight descended, Liza knew she had to take a stand.
“You know I can’t stay with you when we land right?”
Jake smiled. He hadn’t assumed.
“Right. And just so we’re clear, because I’m ugly, right?”
“Haha. You remind me too much of my husband. I appreciate what you’ve done for me, getting me here to Portland, but I have to spend some time to myself.”
Jake okay with it and nodded to show Liza.
“It’s not ‘cause I’m ugly?”
“Haha, no, it’s not because your ugly.”
They sat for a few minutes. Staring at the flight path on the TV screens in front of them. Liza’s hand crept over Jake’s on the armrest. They rubbed their thumbs across each others for a few minutes. Liza took a sip of her champagne and pulled Jake’s hand towards her inner thigh. Jake’s eyes curled in his head. He looked in back down the aisle. All the stewardesses were driving carts through coach; none of them were near the front bathroom. All the passengers around them were asleep.
Jake got up quietly and slipped in the bathroom. Liza followed. Five minutes later they were in their seats, holding hands, fingers interlocked.
They landed in Portland and Jake walked Liza to the taxi stand. He called her an Uber. Went it came, Liza kissed Jake on the lips, then on the neck, to get a last whiff of cigarette on a suit.
“Well, this is goodbye. Thank you, Jake. Best Uber ride ever”
“And you got paid for it! Be well.”
Liza got in the back of the Uber, headed for the highest rated donut shop on Yelp that Portland could offer. After that day, she never saw him again.