Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween

In honor of Halloween, I thought I'd relate this tragic love story. I'm almost sure I've told it before...

The girl in the black velvet ribbon

I never speak to people on the plane. I'm always between some guy who smells like feet and that lady who wants to talk about Stampin' Up! or Creative Memories. But, this last time, I got Mr. Rock Star and a group of soccer moms on their first trip away since having kids. Thank God they were all fun.

I noticed our flight attendant was wearing a thin black velvet ribbon around her neck. She was beautiful, tall and thin, with a graceful neck. The ribbon stood out.

I chuckled without being able to help it. Rock Star wanted to know what was so funny. I pointed out the ribbon, and reminded him of a "horror story" I could almost remember from my youth.  Almost.

Rock Start laughed, too, shaking his head. 30 Year Old Mom wanted to know what was up. I told her, too. She said I was mean. But, she told her friends. They all laughed and the peer pressure turned her to my side. Excellent.

My flight attendant was headed our way.

"Fasten your seatbelts," she told us (well, me), "we can't pull away from the gate until everyone is ready."

Scolded, we settled into our seats and prepared for takeoff. A few giggles continued from my new friends as our flight attendant continued back up the aisle. It was soon too hard to joke due to the roar of the jet engines, so I settle down for some reading, periodically distracted my my girl in the black ribbon.

She was beautiful in a strange, mysterious way. Her hair and her deep bottomless eyes were as black as the velvet ribbon around her neck. I planned to ask her for a cup of coffee after the "fasten seat belt" sign was once again turned off. At 10,000 feet, the pilot allowed us to move around the cabin, which meant "beverage service" would soon begin...

I watched her walked towards my up the long aisle. She was dressed in a white uniform blouse, black pants, and pushed a silvery cart of complementary snacks. Even her face was ivory white. But below it, around the ivory neck, was the black velvet ribbon. I remembered seeing that ribbon as I boarded the plane. I was somehow drawn to it.  I had struggling to look backward as I was ushered through the front of the plane, on my way to poor man's first class: an exit row aisle seat.

I was not the only one who's eyes were drawn to the black velvet ribbon. I remember the curious and strange looks on the faces of the other passengers.

My turn. "Coffee, please." It was typical airplane coffee (e.g., just good enough to finish, not so good that you enjoy a second cup).

"Cream and sugar?" she asked. When our eyes met, suddenly I was drowning in their bottomless darkness. I was lost in her. I shook my head, my voice seemingly gone. Suddenly the coffee was delicious.

I didn't think of the velvet ribbon during the rest of my flight. She provided wonderful service, including another cup of that wonderful coffee. If people thought she was a bit strange, they kept that to themselves. During the flight, she took several opportunities to chat; during one such chat, I learned that she had an overnight stay in my destination. She agreed to meet me for dinner that same night.

When she arrived, she was as mysteriously beautiful as before, elegantly dressed in deep blue and black, and with the beautiful ribbon still there, circling her lovely neck.

"You look stunning, So different out of uniform. I recognized you by your ribbon. It's a good thing you didn't take it off," I said.

"You'd be sorry if I did," she said coyly and with a slight smirk, "so I won't."

Her answer intrigued me, but I did not question her further. It was the first date, there would be plenty of time if things went well.

Things did go well. Things went very well, and as it turned out, she flew my route all the time, so a second date came easy. ...and then a third.

Our life together fell into a pleasant pattern. We were happy, as most new couples are. I found her to be the perfect girlfriend... well, nearly perfect. Although she had a great number of outfits and wore a different one whenever she was in town, she always wore a black velvet ribbon. This ribbon was her trademark. But eventually it became the test of our relationship. When I looked at her, my eyes would always fall to her neck. When I kissed her, I could almost feel the ribbon ...around my own throat.

"Won't you please take that ribbon from around your neck?" I asked her time and time again.

"You'd be sorry if I did, so I won't." This was always her answer. She always said it teasingly, but that's not how it felt after a while.  It soon began to grate on my nerves. Eventually, it was began to infuriate me.

"You'd be sorry if I did."

"You'd be sorry if I did."

One day, after she had repeated her answer, like a mechanical doll repeated it's limited manta, I tried to gently untie the ribbon, but it wouldn't come loose from her neck. I realized then, for the first time, that the ribbon had no beginning and no end. It circled her neck like a band of steel. I let the ribbon slip from my fingers and drew back in disgust. There was no answer in those eyes.

Things weren't the same with us after that. When I drove her to the airport, we rode in silence. After she got out of the car, I just sat, engine idling at the white curb, staring silently into space, until airport security ushered me along.

Her first morning back, at the breakfast table, the black ribbon seemed to mock me. I drank my suddenly bitter coffee.

That afternoon, in the warm sun, the ribbon made a funeral out of the sunlight. But it was that night when it bothered me the most. I could live with it no longer.

"Either take that ribbon off, or I will," I said this girlfriend of only four weeks.

"You'd be sorry if I did, so I won't." She smiled at me and then fell off to sleep.

But I did not sleep. I lay there, staring at the hated ribbon. I had meant what I said. If she would not take off the ribbon, I would.

As she lay sleeping and unsuspecting, I crept out of bed and over to the dresser drawer. There was a small pair of scissors in there; small enough, I knew, to slip under that velvet ribbon. Gripping the scissors in my trembling hands, I walked softly back to the bed. I stole up to where she lay and stood over her. Her head was back on the pillow, and her throat with the black velvet ribbon around it rose ever so slightly with her breathing.

I bent down, and with one swift movement slid the thin blade of the scissors under the ribbon. Then with a quick, triumphant snip, I severed the ribbon that had come between us.

The black velvet ribbon fell away from her neck, and she opened her eyes immediately. Smiling that same familiar smile, she turned her head. "You'd be sorry if I did."

Her head continued to turn. To roll. "You'd be sorry if I did." ....her head rolled off the pillow, onto the bed, and continued rolling onto the floor, all the while she was whispering, "You'd be sorry if I did."

"You'd be sorry if I did."

"You'd be sorry if I did."

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