[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.
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.”