[Editor's Note: Jack Grisham is an author, hypnotherapist, T.S.O.L. front man and all-around troublemaker. This column, True Story, may or may not be factual, with characters who may or may not be real.]
"We've just reached 10,000 feet. You may now turn on your approved electronic devices. We should have a smooth flight, arriving in Oakland in about 50 minutes."
After a few moments of praying, fidgeting and adjusting, we realize we're knee-to-knee with complete strangers--and don't let the illusion of your first-class space fool you. If you were lying on a large deserted beach and some strange man came and laid his towel 3 feet from yours, you'd be awfully uncomfortable. You're forced into awkward conversations; it's a wonderful time to practice unlicensed therapy.
I smile at the woman next to me--she's in her early 30s and cute in a hey-she's-sitting-next-to-you kind of way. I notice the Tar-jay outfit and a ring finger with a slug-white band of untanned skin where the ring used to be--a recent divorcee. I make a quick diagnosis: She is one or two steps below a contender, a slightly too-large nose and a weak chin drop her down to undercard status, but I'm interested, and she looks like she's still hurting over a marriage that was supposed to last forever but got KO'd in the first round--she could use a quick boost.
"I like these short flights," I tell her. "Even if it's bumpy, it's over quick, and you can move on."
"Yes," she says, "I guess so."
"My first wife used to say--when she wasn't cheating on me--that she loved the rough flights, the 600 mph drama of air and plane conflict. And as expected, she brought the same love of drama into our relationship--although I was unwilling to chalk up the frequent flier miles and sent her packing."
I watch her eyes sail over me. I'm wearing a charcoal-gray suit with a white button-down shirt. Even without a tie, I look professional.
"Are you a therapist?" she asks. I smile without answering her--implying my credentials, which are nonexistent.
"Some people just aren't meant for relationships," I say, "and others get the short end of the stick when they deserve so much better. Do you have children?"
"No, we didn't--I mean, I don't . . . yet."
"Ahhh, to be unencumbered by baggage--a bad relationship you can easily wipe away, but when there's a child involved, parting company is so much harder."
She nods her head and sits straighter in her seat. The plane rolls slightly, then stabilizes.
"And often," I continue, "if we're willing to learn from it, a bad relationship can make us grateful for the good things that are right around the corner." I let my hand lightly brush her leg, anchoring the suggestion.
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She smiles at me, her face already becoming lighter, her hope returning. "Are you staying in Oakland?" she asks.
"Yes." I squeeze her knee, slide my hand up her thigh and graze between her legs. She's doing much better. "I couldn't imagine a sweeter city to layover in."