There is a Southwest employee in the window seat. I -- given my height -- took the aisle seat. This being holiday travel, there was absolutely no chance of getting the over-the-wing seat with the extra legroom. I knew this would likely be the case, but still there was that small part of me that felt myself gritting my teeth and just being glad that OAK-DEN is a 2h30m flight.
As I chatted with the Southwest employee about how awesome her employer is, the plane continued to fill. Soooo slooooowly. Running the concurrent narratives in my head that are always there, I kept looking for the short and underweight small person to lock eyes with and send vibes toward with the "yes, you really want to sit here in this middle seat" message.
Oh but no.
I had seen a young gentleman sitting in the boarding area beforehand. After my brief moment of realizing that I truly am a dirty old man in training, I thought to myself "I wonder what his story is." There was a gentleness there. A humility. The Obama sticker on his Mac probably made me think that, but still. And yes, he ends up needing the middle seat. He asks very politely, and of course I oblige. And then it hits me: he's tall.
Like, me tall.
I did in fact ask him his height. We are exactly the same height. And here's where I realized my place in yet another part of the rabbit-hole my life has been for the past few years... I am an open-book. I have never been good at lying. No, wait, that's not true. I am actually a consummate liar -- in the sense that I am a very good actor. But as I have gotten older, and more able to love myself, I really have come to understand one basic wisdom about living a life based on truth: it's simply easier.
This is not news. It falls along the lines of "if you always tell the truth then you do not have to remember which version of which reality you told to which person and when." This came into my mind anew as I realized that I had been sitting next to this Southwest employee and this adorable young man -- yes, he's in college so I am literally old enough to be his father -- for less than 10 minutes and I had come out to them.
So here I am, on this Southwest Boeing 737-700, completely full of people, waiting for the borderline apoplexy of claustrophobia to set in. But it simply DOESN'T. I am sitting next to a guy half my age who is literally the same height and weight as I am AND THERE IS SPACE BETWEEN OUR HIPS. There is enough room for two tall and thin guys, with different builds but with ridiculously long legs, to sit side-by-side with space between us. This is... amazing.
At this point I could wax poetic about the athletic build I will never have. I could lament the fact that if I were in "as good shape as" this young man I would probably weigh closer to 200 pounds because -- let's face it -- muscle is denser than fat. But no, that is not what comes into my mind. Not at all.
What comes into my mind is much more simple. And much scarier. And much more beautiful.
I feel free. Thank God almighty. There is enough room for me and someone literally my height and weight to sit next to each other on this plane. How is that possible? What in the Holy Name of Jesus The Christ have I done to my body? What magic hath God wrought in the nine months of my life since my weight-loss journey began? I am calm. I am... well, I won't say COMFORTABLE because the never-ending boney-ass thing is bugging me. But I am content. I feel like I can breathe. I actually have room to wriggle in my seat. I wriggle and the most amazing thing happens: the entire seat doesn't lurch in enforcement of the equal-and-opposite-reaction law. Suck it, Newton.
A year ago this week I was on a plane flying east from San Francisco for Christmas, and I was perilously close to needing a seat-belt extender. But now, this. It defies analysis. It is just, well, REAL. Yes, that is the word for it.
My thoughts turn back to the beautiful young man sitting next to me. I remember being his age; I remember, oh so well. I remember being insecure about my looks, thinking I was fat, knowing that the world saw me as fat. Not that I actually WAS fat, or that the world really saw me that way, but childhood narrative is hard to overcome -- the scars of the bullying from 3rd and 4th grade live on. I will probably never see myself as a "thin guy" even though I have lost weight to the point that my rib cage protrudes visibly for the first time ever in my life. I know that I still have a LOT of mental work to do with this major change in my life. And maybe there will come a day that I will not be so forthcoming about having had weight-loss surgery.
But -- to adapt Aragorn from Return Of The King -- today is not that day. Today, I am out-loud-and-proud about the blessing that God has bestowed upon me through the hands of my wonderful surgeon at Kaiser. And, like any true evangelist, I want to share this good news with the world.
I congratulate the beautiful young man sitting next to me. He asks why. I inform him that this is my first flight since my surgery and that he is the first person who gets to experience sitting next to my new size. I am not sure how much he understands it. How could he understand what a profound experience it is to be only cramped on this plane, rather than cramped and busting out all over like before my surgery?
I could get used to this. Let it be so. Amen.