Home > Meant to Be Mine

Meant to Be Mine
Author: Hannah Orenstein

 


one


The minute the cab door slams shut behind me at JFK, the hair on my arms stands on end and my heart beats double-time. My palms are coated in sweat, and not just because it’s a sweltering day in late June. I wipe my hands on my vintage white Levi’s, grip the handle of my suitcase, and take in the travelers pulling luggage out of taxis and steering kids through the airport’s revolving door. I don’t know exactly what I’m looking for, but I’m banking on the hope that I’ll know it when I see it.

I take my sweet time entering my name and flight number into the kiosk’s touch screen, hoping to meet someone, until I feel someone’s presence a polite few feet behind me. As the machine prints out my boarding pass, I sneak a glance over my shoulder. I was right—there is a man there. Holding hands with another man. I offer a self-conscious smile.

“Sorry, almost done,” I promise.

Going through security takes ten times longer than the Zara checkout line on a Saturday afternoon. But I don’t mind the wait today. My flight isn’t for another two hours, and I can use this idle time to scope out attractive people who happen to be passing through Terminal 5 on the morning of Friday, June 24, 2022.

My eyes skim over the couples and families ahead of me, pausing at the men who appear to be alone or traveling with friends. Near the front, there’s a group of bleary-eyed frat bros. Too young. Further down the line, a man in a tie-dyed tank top and bun totes a hiking backpack (not my type), and another in a T-shirt and headphones nods vacantly along to a beat. I watch him for a moment until he reaches up to adjust an earbud, revealing a wedding band. Everyone shuffles through the line until, eventually, I make it to the TSA officer. He looks like he’s my age. Crooked nose, white teeth, no ring. I hand him my boarding pass and driver’s license. He studies my picture—taken around the time I graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology, in the thick of my retro phase: heavy on the eyeliner, hair teased sky-high—and flicks his dark eyes up to meet mine. I wait for a spark, a sign, something.

“You’re all set.” He hands the materials back to me, gesturing for the person behind me to step forward. “Next!”

None of this is my typical experience. I usually skid into the airport with less than an hour to spare, late from packing, overthinking, and re-packing. But this is the day. My day. I’ve been fantasizing about it for nearly half my life.

I heave a sigh. For all the countless times I’ve imagined today, I never considered how it would test my patience. I’ve waited thirteen years for my life to change, but a minute longer might break me.

My nerves are thanks to my grandmother Gloria. She always insisted that my twin sister, Rae, and I call her Gloria, not Grandma, because she refuses to feel old. (Two technicalities: One, her real name is actually Gladys, but nobody’s dared call her that since she was old enough to jettison that clunker. And two, she is ninety years old.) In 1955, straight out of secretarial school, she got a splashy job working at an ad agency in Manhattan. She adored it—not only the gig, which gave her work assisting important people and a salary of $92 per week, but the lifestyle: date nights with ad men at shows on Broadway, beautiful restaurants and boutiques on Madison Avenue, pocket money to buy pearls at Fortunoff, cigarettes on Central Park benches, city air. A life completely different from the one she grew up with across the East River in Brooklyn. If she got married, she’d be expected to get pregnant and give up working. So, she broke off one engagement to a nice but boring lawyer, then broke off a second one to a handsome but bland doctor. And then it happened.

The vision came to her on a lunch break with her fellow secretaries. She was enjoying a pastrami sandwich on rye and listening to Annette Lyons gossip when her vision blurred. She felt dizzy and warm, like she was floating in a hot bath: disorienting, but not unpleasant. She saw herself—not as she was, sitting in the red vinyl deli booth in her favorite cardigan trimmed with rhinestone buttons—but holding hands with a man, looking deliriously happy. She couldn’t see his face. Then the voice came, soft at first, then loud and full of static, like a blaring radio tuned to the wrong frequency. June 1, 1958. She didn’t know why, but she was certain that was the date she would meet the man she was meant to be with. As quickly as the feeling came on, it vanished.

Sure enough, three months later on June 1, she met Raymond Meyer at her friend Janet Weisberger’s dinner party. They were married within the year. He was a man worth giving up a job for, Gloria said. They bought an apartment on the Upper East Side within walking distance of Central Park, and he truly didn’t mind that she preferred to spend her days strolling Museum Mile and reading in cafés to keeping the house and preparing hot dinners. She felt vindicated that she had held out for a husband who was smitten with her exactly the way she was. He never wanted to tamp down her sharp tongue or her creative mind.

If the vision had only happened once, she might have written it off as a coincidence. But the images kept coming: she forecasted her brothers and sister meeting their matches, and then a handful of cousins, and her own daughter and son, and then my sister, Rae, and then me.

Gloria has seen it all coming: Her sixty-four-year-old aunt finding true romance with the woman who moved in next door after decades of an unhappy marriage to a man; my cousin Evan kissing a girl on the playground in preschool and marrying her twenty years later; even Rae meeting her boyfriend—soon-to-be fiancé—during her freshman year of college. She’s never been wrong.

Today, Friday, June 24, 2022, is my day. Gloria has known the date since I was a little girl, but didn’t reveal it until I was sixteen and completely crushed that Kyle Washington asked Michaela Francis to homecoming instead of me. She wanted me to know life had more in store for me than just a date to a high school dance. I’ve imagined this day in countless ways over the years: At sixteen, I fantasized about bumping into a beautiful French man on the Pont des Arts, the love lock bridge in Paris; at twenty-two, I dreamed about styling a cover shoot for a magazine and falling for whichever heartthrob celebrity’s pants I was cuffing; at twenty-five, I got honest with myself and figured I’d probably swipe across my future husband on a dating app. But now, at twenty-nine, it seems none of those scenarios was right.

It was only last month that Rae’s boyfriend, Max, asked our family to secretly fly to Maine to watch him propose. He wanted to ask on Clifton College’s campus, where they first met, in front of both their families. (He’s a sap like that.) But his choice of today means half my day will be spent traveling. I doubt he realized his proposal would overlap with the biggest day of my life, and I didn’t want to put a damper on his plans, especially given how long they’d been in motion—he and my twin sister have been together for eleven years, after all. And anyway, fate doesn’t care if I’m in an airport or 30,000 feet up: it’ll find me no matter what.

After I run my baggage through the scanners and slip my purple, block-heeled sandals back on, I take a long, slow stroll toward Gate 53, stopping every chance I get. I dip into Starbucks to order a cappuccino, buy Vogue and New York magazine at Hudson News, browse the racks of “I NY” T-shirts at a gift shop. I scan for eligible bachelors, but each store is frustratingly empty. It turns out, 9 a.m. on a weekday isn’t a popular time to travel. I briefly consider sitting down at the darkened bar to order a drink. Don’t people always hit on each other at airport bars? But I’d hope my destined date doesn’t imbibe before noon.

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