Setting: a very small, rather informal International Airport, near the border between two large countries.
Personae Dramatiae: Me, and a family consisting of grandfather, grandmother, two adorable girls, and the girls' mother.
Scenario: The mother and her two girls are waiting in line to board an airplane, while the grandparents are there to see them off. They have obviously just spent a fairly substantial time together-- the two girls obviously love their grandparents very much, and are equal parts sad to be going home and excited to be going home.
I myself am there to meet someone coming in on a very much delayed flight, so have nothing to do till it gets there.
Back to the family: The older girl is probably eleven or twelve, or a very old ten, about five feet tall or a hair less, medium dark blonde, glasses, slender, very good looking. If she was the only girl around I'd be getting my eyes full of her bigtime.
BUT . . .
Oh, my, how do I describe the other girl? This is beyond me, but I'll try.
In the face, she's eight or nine. But she has a Liza Minelli style haircut [though a different color] which looks completely out of place on her almost babyish face, which is very very pale and round, with hints of baby fat under the ears, though otherwise she's extremely slender, even skinny. [My type, in other words.]
She's exactly the same height as her sister, which is mind-boggling to me, given the apparent age of her face. She has the slenderest long neck I've ever seen, gazelle-like. She's wearing hip-hugger tight pants and a short shirt which leaves her midriff completely bare all the way around, but especially in front, where the shirt material is pulled up into a sort of inverted V. [My goodness, aren't navels WONDERFUL?]
Her waist is the size of most people's necks.
The amazing thing about this midriff, given the girl's very pale face, is that it is quite tanned, with hints that the tan extends both upwards and downwards out of present sight. It doesn't match the face at all. In fact, the entire BODY doesn't match the face at all. It's taut, muscular, lithe, lean, with not a milligram of fat anywhere on it, the body of a gymnast or professional dancer. The whole appearance screams that this head does not belong on this body, that someone has made a mistake somewhere.
The effect is riveting, heightened by the fact that the girl's hair is the palest blonde I've ever seen, and that she has piercing steel-grey eyes.
Needless to say, I stared. And stared and stared. As I stared, it dawned on me that this was by far the most beautiful girl I had ever seen in my whole life. I was dying to find out how old she was, where she was going, where she lived, everything I could find out about her. But of course I dared not try to do so, for fear of giving myself away.
And then she spoke, to her grandpa, telling him how much she had enjoyed her visit. Her voice was of medium-pitch, slightly husky, but beautifully clear. It carried for yards, although she spoke softly.
NOW I'm not just enthralled, I'm in love.
I move farther away from them, afraid that my staring will be noticed by someone. I had been about eight feet away. I move to about thirty feet away, but with a clear view of both girls, who are facing me as they talk to their grandparents and their mom, who are all three facing away from me.
Suddenly, I am alarmed to hear the younger girl say, to her mom. "There's a guy over there in an orange shirt who keeps staring at me." As I have an orange shirt on, there's no doubt in my mind who she means. Quickly I shift my posture slightly and aim my focus elsewhere, so that the mother will perceive me staring somewhere 'else,' ANYWHERE else! Which is what happens.
The mother's reply is voiced too low for me to hear, but it evidently pacifies the child, and the girl never looks my way again. Nor does the mom, so far as I can tell.
I'm meanwhile frantically playing over various possible explanations if this all leads to a confrontation. "I was just trying to figure out how old she is," sounds pretty lame. "I was staring because she's the most beautiful girl I've ever seen in my life," probably doesn't help any. There's no way I'm going to deny having stared. I owe the girl that much honesty, if push comes to shove. Besides which, I can't be the only man who has ever stared at her. She's outrageously gorgeous.
The three of them, mother and two girls, finally board the plane and wave goodbye just before they disappear inside. I feel like waving back, but don't, having been caught staring.
Ordinarily, in a situation like this, I would now approach the grandparents, strike up a conversation about the airport, or the weather, or something, and eventually get around to commenting about the two grandchildren, and try to find out surreptitiously where they live. Not that I will do anything with that information if I get it, other than to store it away for possible future reference. I would probably also try to find out the two girls' ages.
However, given the fact that the girl had noticed me staring, I do none of this. I don't know how much of the conversation about me between child and mother the grandfather might have heard, and besides that he doesn't appear to be the type of guy you just waltz up to and strike up a conversation with. In other words, he has a rather forbidding face.
So nothing ever comes of any of this, and never will.
Yet those twenty minutes will live inside me for a long time, and I have learned a few lessons from them, a few phrases I will repeat to myself for a while:
1. If you must stare, do it more covertly in future.
2. Be thankful for small blessings. Rather than bemoaning the fact that you'll never see this girl again, be thankful you got to see her this once.
3. Be thankful for moms who are not paranoid. This mom could easily have gotten out of line and come over and confronted me. The airport security was very lax, and no one would have tried to stop her getting out of line after she had already passed through the screening.
4. Be glad you had the instinct to move thirty feet away.
5. Be more aware that girls these days are instructed to be aware of men like me and report events to their moms.
OK, so I'm a wimp, I admit it. So what!