Summer of ’99. Picasso and I had a few months of dating under our belt.
We worked two blocks away from each other in New York City.
I like to think that we walked the same streets at the same time before we met. On a lunch break. Running errands. Not knowing that a big love was right next us, jostling for space on a Midtown Manhattan sidewalk.
I ran over to his work one afternoon and surprised Picasso with tickets to Miami. We had a long weekend ahead, and I wanted to pick up and go. Get out of the city for a minute.
This was pre-9/11. Another time. While I knew that Picasso was undocumented, I didn’t know about his previous deportation. In my ignorance and privilege, my only concern was if Picasso had a bathing suit.
Picasso never hesitated about going to Miami. Or if there was any nervousness, he never showed it. This was a good two years before the Patriot Act.
When we met at the airport, Picasso only brought a check-on bag with him. At the time, I thought that was weird. I couldn’t understand why he didn’t want to check his bag, and instead lug it onto the plane. For the youngsters in the house, there once was a magical time in air travel when you didn’t have to pay for checked baggage.
I now know that he if checked his bag, it would’ve called more attention to himself. This wasn’t his first U.S. flight. He knew how to toe the air travel line.
Because the tickets were last minute, we weren’t sitting together. I was completely annoyed by our separate seats and couldn’t stop bitching about it.
Yes, the irony is not lost on me.
Over the course of the flight, we hit turbulence like I’ve never experienced before or since. I really thought that the plane was going to crash. I yelled and gasped and gripped my arm rests.
I turned around at one point to look for Picasso, seated a few rows back. He didn’t make a single sound. Smiled at me weakly.
When we arrived to our hotel in Miami, it was all we could do to pass out on our bed and sleep for a few hours from the shock of the trip.
Miami more than made up for the turbulence.
Picasso and I unfolded in Miami, our Midtown Manhattan armor laid out in the sun to melt into a mirage of responsibilities and lunch breaks.
When I look at this photo of me from that trip, I see how much I don’t know yet.
It’s a time before wedding rings and Alien Identification Numbers and photocopies.
And I know that I must be trying to suck my tummy in, even though it is hidden under the table.
But what I see most of all is that the guy taking the photo is who makes my eyes twinkle.
He still does.