A Dance in Terminal A

It was just a dance with a stranger named Xavier, but it changed her. It appeared she’d found him again, exactly one year after their encounter, at the same place, at the same time. She wondered if this was too good to be true, or did Cinderella get to go back to the ball?

Samantha blinked at the screen on her iPad. Facebook was sharing a post from “Airport Abrazo”.

It read:

“I am stranded at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport in Terminal A from 3:30pm to 7:30pm. I am a leader, with shoes and music. If you have time for a dance, I am in front of gate 14. I am Xavier.”

Her hands shook and she prepared a reply. Should she reply? What were the chances that he was the same Xavier? What if it was he – and he didn’t remember her? Should she leave well enough alone – or was it possible that lightning could actually strike twice? She breathed in, as a memory came flooding back. “Airport Abrazo” was a Facebook Meet-up page she’d joined on a whim over a year ago. The name had caught her eye – “Abrazo,” the Spanish word for “embrace”, was used in the tango community to signify the pose in which tango partners started their three minute romances. The point of the page was to give people who loved tango and were stuck in airports an opportunity to connect and, if the tango gods were with them, to give them a chance to dance. It was a simple thing to click “like this page.”

She didn’t give it another thought for months.

Until she saw the post from Xavier, she hadn’t realized it was one year ago this very day that she found herself stuck at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport. It had been minus seven degrees outside and her flight home to Atlanta had been cancelled. No one with any authority would even hazard a guess as to whether or not she’d get home for Christmas. No one could help secure a hotel, although one woman in a Santa hat did give her a cot. Samantha tried not to be impatient, but when you travel 200,000 miles a year, Christmas cheer can be in short supply come December 23rd.

After getting all her end-of-the year reports done, checking out the news and calling her mother, Samantha tried to keep herself occupied. She stashed her cot behind a darkened gate and strolled through the airport. MSP was a lovely place, bursting with the optimism and decorations of the holidays. But it was not the greatest airport in which to get stuck overnight. O’Hare, Dulles, even her own Atlanta-Hartfield had shops and restaurants to ward off boredom. After sipping a glass of wine at Surdyk’s, she saw the Christmas tree. The weather outside, which was indeed frightful, added the perfect touch, screaming of artistic misery. She snapped the photo to put on Facebook. She knew her life as a travel agent seemed incredibly glamorous to her earthbound friends. She did nothing to relieve them of the notion. The sometimes crushing loneliness of the road never made it into her Facebook posts. Even on the verge of tears at the prospect of being stuck in Terminal H for Christmas, she would only post a picture of the gorgeous tree outside TSA.

When she opened her computer to post her Christmas tree pic, a post from a stranded dancer popped up on Airport Abrazo. She normally scrolled right past these, but she caught sight of the “MSP” – and realized that the poster was stuck at the same place she was! She read the particulars – he was at Terminal A, in front of Gate 7. He was clearly very serious about tango. He carried dance shoes and music and announced himself as a leader. He had the new terminology down – it used to be “man” and “lady” – the man always leading and the woman always following. Now, whomever wanted to lead, led, and whomever wanted to follow, followed. It was all politically correct. But the dance was as charged with passion as ever.

It was his tagline “I am Xavier” that intrigued her. She thought it over. Samantha followed the rules and never took unnecessary chances. What would her mother say if she found out her only daughter was off meeting a mystery man for the most ardent of dances? But her mother wasn’t here. Samantha decided she had little to lose and she replied that she was in Terminal H but could meet him at his gate in a half hour. She wrote that she didn’t have shoes, but could follow in socks (which she’d noted was acceptable on the page).

He was standing in front of the gate as promised. Xavier was tall, with thick, wavy hair graying at the temples, which probably made him older than her. He had liquid brown eyes. He smiled slightly when they met. Looking back, Samantha realized they must have spoken. Exchanged names. He gave her a Bluetooth earbud, took one for himself and turned on the music. She knew all of this must have happened, but she remembered nothing but him extending his hand to her and pulling her into a close embrace.

The dance was magic. Samantha was a practiced dancer, but her feet did combinations she didn’t know. She remembered one of her instructors saying to her “salsa is a challenge, tango is a surrender” – and she surrendered to it all. She found herself back in Terminal H, with her shoes still in her hands.

In the morning, she boarded her flight. As the plane took off, Samantha looked down at the runway, thinking about the night before. She couldn’t believe she had thrown off all caution and met a man named Xavier for a dance.

The dance never left her. As she traveled around the country in the following months, she found herself more open to adventure than ever. Whenever she found herself backsliding into her more timid patterns, she thought about her tango with Xavier.

And now here she was, faced with another post.

“I am Xavier.”

Her fingers were poised over the keys. What if she had made too much of this? Would the memory of that perfect dance be ruined if revisited?

She realized her new courage was a gift, no matter what happened. She quickly typed, “I will meet you at your gate in a half hour. I have shoes.”

She tried not to run. She took the moving stairways to keep her heartbeat steady. She saw him at the gate.

They must have spoken. But everything seemed silent as he extended his hand and took her into his embrace.

© Celia Bonaduce, LLC 2016