I am frequently mistaken for a priest.
People confess things to me. I don't ask them to tell me their secrets, but I must have a non-judgmental face because in under five minutes flat the gentleman in seat 2C on my flight from Denver to L.A. confessed he had a Catholic wife, two sons in Brea, California and a mistress in Schenectady:
Image: Chris Tse via Flickr
Francois showed me his Jawbone. Not the one on his face, but the black Jawbone bracelet he wears that tracks all his activity during the day and his sleep patterns at night. He pulled out his iphone and showed me the data he downloads into it from his Jawbone, so he can track his progress. Then he showed me a second set of data cozied right on top of his.
"This is Emmanuelle's data. We're linked so our data downloads onto each other's phones."
Emmanuelle's data was represented in a fluorescent purple, Francois's data an electric blue.
"See, she slept four point two hours last night and I slept four point eight," he pointed out. "We each had only two periods of R.E.M. She walked nine thousand steps yesterday and I walked ten thousand five hundred..." Francois's eyes seemed to caress Emmanuelle's data. His face softening at the thought of her.
At the age of sixty he feels the weight of his mortality upon him. And Emmanuelle, being a cancer survivor, has the same prescient sense that time is limited and if she isn't going to live now, then when?
As we landed at LAX Francois' phone came alive with a ping and a text from Emmanuelle, checking in as her own airplane touched down. He showed me their texts.
"When my friend or I travel," Francois said, "we always let each other know when we are taking off and send a text, OTO-OL (one take-off, one landing), as a reminder to fly safe and keep the number of take-offs and landings equal. When we land, we send a note, 'cheated death again' as a reminder that it really isn 't natural for us to be at 35,000 feet."
The glint in his eye now seemed less mischievous and more ecstatic. Ecstatic that he'd found this woman.
"You lied to me," I said.
"What do you mean I lied to you? I just told you more about me than the closest people to me know."
"You lied when you said you weren't in love with your mistress."
He smiled, caught out. Then looked tenderly down at his phone, the inanimate object standing in for the flesh-and-blood woman who brought him back to life and the, perhaps, illusory dream that he can have it all.
Do you think there are circumstances in which a man, or a woman, are entitled to take a lover?
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