Today was an anniversary, of sorts… of the sort we choose to celebrate. It’s been almost three years since I met Lime, and the story of how we met is worth telling, so that’s going to be my post for today.
In winter 2004, I spent a couple of months in India, and about half that time, Ritu and her family generously hosted me. So anyway, the time finally came, on February 17th, for me to fly back to Korea. I rushed about Delhi on my last day, picked up a tanpura, and that evening, they took me to the airport. The time I spent with them had meant a lot to me, as had my time in India generally, and so it was both hard to leave, but exciting to be headed back to Korea. I got on the plane, which, like the previous Air India flight I’d been on, was hotter than hell inside. I had dressed for Korean winter, though, meaning a sweater and a jacket, because it was supposed to be cold when I arrived.

Well, after about half an hour of killing time on the plane, I found myself wondering whether we’d ever take off. The answer was…

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain. I’m sorry to announce that we’re having some problems with the engine, and it will take some time to repair. If we cannot get it fixed, we will take everyone off the plane, but until then, we’d like you to stay on and we’ll put on a movie for your entertainment.”

They put on a Bollywood movie, and if you’ve seen one, you know that they’re long. They’re kind of Shakespeare-scaled musicals… three hours, singing and dancing and a coffee break in the middle. I don’t know which movie it was, but it wasn’t one of the modern ones I like. So I ended up in the back of the plane, talking with other Western travelers about our experiences in India. A lot of laughing, a lot of incredulity, not a little directed at our current circumstances.

Quite close to the end of the movie, the plane finally took off. By then, my flight from Bangkok to Korea was probably in its pre-boarding stages, and I knew I’d miss my plane, but the flight attendant assured me I’d be able to fly to Korea soon the next day. So I relaxed, and before I knew it — one more movie later — we were in Bangkok.

In Bangkok, I was hoping for a room, somewhere to nap and shower before my next flight. But, oh, no. We arrived at 3:30am, and the next flight to Korea was boarding at 6:00am. (Only flying at 7:00 or later, but anyway, by regulations, they didn’t have to give us rooms.) They did, however give us access to the lounge, and what I did there was everything that was cheap or free. Cheap internet, so I caught up on long-neglected email. Free liquor, so I kept making myself Black Russians and sipping them as I blogged and read my email. I didn’t dare sit on the couches, for fear of falling asleep, so I went shopping in the duty-free area, and picked up some lovely bottles of Glenfiddich. (One of which went home with me, one of which ended up being shared with the other members of Dabang Band.)

So anyway, that brings me to 6:00 am, boarding time. I’m stinking like alcohol and sweat, worn out, and a little bit stiff in the back from sitting up all night. I got on the plane, and that’s all I remember until Incheon. At Incheon, the airport in Korea, I remember getting to the arrivals floor, and being hungry as death — I think I slept through the meals on my flight, but I’m not sure. Anyway, in my rush to get back to Jeonju and head to the pubic bathhouse, to sauna out the Indian smog from my lungs, I picked up some fast food and hurried onto the bus. Trundling my way to the back, I sat down and then heard this little voice:

“Where are you coming from?”

Some young-looking woman had asked me that, and luckily, I hadn’t plugged my minidisc headphones into my ears quite yet. So I talked to her a bit, found out she’d come back from Canada, and had lived in Montreal, and was heading back to Jeonju, the same place I was going. I moved up a seat so we could talk a little more easily. After a while, she asked me again:

“You still haven’t answered my question. Where are you coming from?”

We talked a lot of the way to the rest stop, aside from a short nap she took, and then, when we got off, we were talking again. Neither of us said we were heading to the washrooms, but it seemed the most natural thing to chat till we got there. I got out first, and went straight to the coffee stand and ordered one cappiccino and one hot chocolate. When this pretty young woman came up to the coffee stand — somehow I knew she would — I asked her whether she’d like a coffee or hot chocolate, and caught her by surprise when I handed her choice to her without having to order it.

Anyway, by the time we got most of the way to Jeonju, I snuck her my phone number on the back of a list of CDs I was recommending to her, based on what she had in her discman — unsubtle, I know, but it worked, didn’t it?

A month and a half later, with some complicated changes of phones and phone numbers, miscommunications and messages lost to the void, and one April Fool’s Day prank behind us, we finally ended up coming together and becoming a couple. But we have always counted back to that day we met, by chance, on an airport bus, as our “anniversary.”

Perhaps it’s out of recognition of the immense good fortune that not only was my plane late, but that hers, too, was delayed. Maybe it’s because it’s the day that stuck in our heads? A day of good fortune, and all of the bad fortune that has hit me since hasn’t wiped out my appreciation of that day of good luck.

And that’s what February 18th is for us.

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