On their way back to Miami Owen decided to dress down in shorts, a sports shirt and sneakers. He wore his OU baseball cap. No one will recognize me now, he thought. Agnes wore a floral dress. He told Agnes about the rude interruption, but she didn’t say anything.
They had nothing to do at the hotel. They arrived at the airport early for window shopping and to buy souvenirs for Sally. As they were going past a jewelry store Owen noticed a middle aged couple pass them from the opposite direction. The man was wearing Dockers’ and a sports jacket. He seemed to be staring at Owen as if he wanted to ask him something. When Owen and Agnes finished their purchase they started returning to the gate. They noticed that the couple that had just passed them was waiting for them. Owen wondered what was going on.
“Are you folks from Oklahoma?” The man asked.
“Oh, yes, of course,” replied Owen. “Norman, Oklahoma. I was student at the University there. But now I live in Miami, Florida. I am a practicing pediatrician there. I am Owen.”
“Hi, I’m Ash.” The man said.
They introduced their wives
The man told him that he too was an alumnus of the University and had lived on Asp Avenue at one time. He asked Owen if he remembered the Rickner’s book-store right off the main campus.
Owen said he did.
“How about the McDonald’s that sold 15 cent hamburgers?” The man asked
“Yes! On Jenkins,” Owen said.
Owen started to feel some familiarity with the man but didn’t know why.
“Maybe we were in some classes together,” Owen said.
They could have continued talking, but there was an announcement on the airport speaker system. Owen and Agnes thought it was the boarding call for their flight.
“Go Sooners!” said Agnes with thumbs up as they turned away from the couple. She had been quiet all along but was intently listening to the conversation.
“God bless!” Owen said as they departed.
When Owen and Agnes approached their gate they discovered that the announcement they had heard was for another flight. They had another 30 minutes before boarding.
They were deciding whether to while away the time by sitting in the waiting area or have a drink in the bar across. Owen heard someone calling him.
The man, whom he had just met, was rapidly approaching him with his wife. What could it be? Owen thought.
“Owen, are you the Owen who lived on Lindsay Street and owned a Renault?” The man was asking, almost out of breath.
Owen replied that he in fact was the same person. The man re-introduced himself as Ashley Wilkins. Owen suddenly realized why he felt a certain familiarity with the man. It was his old friend from Oklahoma University, the one he had helped to settle down. He hadn’t recognized him because of the passage of time. The Ashley he knew was younger and a bit thinner.
“Oh, my God! Ashley? The quiet one?” Owen said as he came forward and hugged him.
“Well, we have changed, haven’t we?” Owen said. “I thought you looked familiar.”
“I would have ignored you if you weren’t wearing your cap,” Ashley said.
Owen said the announcement was for a different flight and since they had some time they should go to the adjoining coffee shop to catch up.
There was so much to talk about. Their correspondence had stopped long time ago and neither knew what was happening in each other’s life.
“So, tell me what you did in Africa,” Ashley asked.
“Well, I spent two years in Malawi as a Peace Corps Volunteer. We stayed with the locals and lived the same life as they did. It was tough, but very rewarding.”
Owen talked about the necessity of training locals about clean living and how in two years he had accomplished much. He talked about his decision to settle down in Miami after his return to America, his chance meeting with Agnes and their wedding. They had one daughter, Sally, a teacher in Melbourne. Both of his parents had passed away He didn’t mention what happened to Rachel.
“What about you?” Owen asked Ashley. “What have you been doing and how’s life been treating you?”
Ashley told him about the life of a faculty member at Michigan State, his three children, the campus politics, the pressure to publish and the struggle to get tenure.
They had a good chat. At the end they exchanged their addresses and telephone numbers. Ashley invited Owen and Agnes to spend Thanksgiving with them in Michigan
“It’s a date,” Owen said as they departed.
Later in the plane Owen told Agnes about Ashley — how a chance meeting in Rickner’s bookshop had led to a long-lasting friendship and how he would look forward visiting Ashley and to meet this family.