It’s time to lighten up. I’ve shared a lot of sad and hard stories around sex that I’ve never shared before, so now it’s time to share a different kind of story that I’ve also never shared publicly before. Yes, this is a story about the mile high club, which is a term to describe when people have sex in an airplane bathroom; which, I must say was never my style. Plus I always wondered how two people arrive at both an agreement and plan to execute such a bold plan with so many people around. The mile high club always seemed far outside my comfort zone and interest, until the scenario happened out of nowhere to me, with a stranger. And how did reality rearrange itself so that this scenario unfolded? You’re about to find out.
It was June 2009 and I was on the home stretch flight from Narita, Japan to Los Angeles after spending 1 month backpacking through SE Asia by myself. But I need to mention that I didn’t start the trip alone, but I ended up that way. I started my trip with my friend S**, an acquaintance from high school, who I’d accidentally invited to join me prior to me leaving on my solo trip. How does one accidentally invite someone along a month long adventure like that? I have alcohol to thank. It was the first week of April 2009 and I was with a large group drinking and skiing for the closing day of Deer Valley ski resort in Park City, Utah. And in my friendly drunken excitement about my upcoming solo trip to Asia, I not only told my friend S** all about it, but I also invited him to join me. Somehow during an 8 min chairlift ride in ski clothes and gloves, I pulled out my phone and sent him all my flight info so that he could try and get on the same flights. But I had no recollection of this invite or conversation until the next day, when S** enthusiastically messaged me saying he’d gotten on all the same flights as me, and now he wanted to grab dinner to talk about what kind of trip we wanted to have together. Wait, what? We? I didn’t want a we; only drunk me wanted a we, but now it was too late because he’d gotten a great deal on a non refundable ticket in and out of Bangkok.
My reason for wanting to go this alone was clear to me. I’d had several excruciating months of heartache after a painful breakup the previous Fall (see day 35), and being fairly new to Facebook, I didn’t have many people on my friends list, but I did have my ex; thus I got to continuously see pictures of him galavanting around Central America and SE Asia with gorgeous young backpacking women on his arm, and I was insanely hurt and jealous. I wanted to show him how strong and over him I was as well, and post tons of photos of me and MY fun solo travels, hopefully with handsome men on my arm too. And why was my ex still my Facebook friend? Because when we broke up we naively agreed our friendship was important, so we decided to stay friends on Facebook, which in hindsight was a big mistake. I suddenly got to have a front row seat to see how free and happy he was all winter without me; so it became time to hit the road and deliver the same message to him. But I’d never been to Asia before, never traveled alone without a clear destination or purpose before, or backpacked as a means of travel, so I was pretty scared about the unknown. But I’d done several google searches on women backpacking solo, so I felt like I was prepared. I read up on how to pack, what to pack, how to protect my drink if I’m out solo, and where to hide my money and passport. I even bought fancy sandals with a hidden compartment in the heel to stash money because they were mentioned in a random travel blog. But I didn’t read up on how to say no to a friend coming with you, after you’d delivered a sincere drunk invitation for him to join. But now you know why and how S** came to be on this adventure with me; it was because I was scared to be alone in a new country, and drunk Harriet was looking out for me. But I made the best of it and told S** in our first trip meeting that my goal was to have a laid back trip and not really plan anything, which clearly made him uncomfortable. It seemed that being spontaneous and letting the universe guide us wasn’t his traveling style, so I let him plan our first 3 days to see how things unfolded.
We landed in Bangkok end of May 2009 and immediately caught a flight to Koh Samui, one of the islands in the south of Thailand. From reading a Lonely Planet guidebook for Thailand, S** had booked us a room in a cute little guesthouse a few minutes from the beach, way to go S**. We had a gorgeous arrival dinner together at a cute nearby grill where we literally sat on the beach in bean bag chairs. There was a low table between us adorned with flowers and candles. The scene was totally romantic, though that wasn’t the vibe between us; at least not from me. That night we talked about life and reminisced of high school, and his drinks kept coming because they were so cheap, but I stopped at 1 and shifted to water. After the sun went down and the bugs came out I was ready to go, but S** was not, so I left him on the beach and went back to our guesthouse. The place was nice; it had AC, it was spacious, it was $20/night and it had two comfortable twin beds and a private bathroom. I heard S** stumble in late but pretended to stay asleep, but I was up an hour or two later to greet the sun and explore while S** stayed in bed and nursed his hangover. It wasn’t a wonderful start to our adventure, but I went with it. Once S** woke up he wanted to go where I’d already been, which I didn’t want to do, so we parted ways for the day, and he started drinking again. I quickly saw how this traveling together thing was going to shake out, and that our styles of being and traveling together just weren’t compatible. But how do I part ways without ending a friendship? I only needed to wait a few hours before the answer would come clear.
The second night we were at dinner at the beach again, and I talked a lot with a young group of travelers who were sitting next to us. They told me about how much they enjoyed their time in Ko Tao, Thailand’s most popular, beautiful and secluded island. I knew the name well because I’d heard my ex speak of it when he was traveling there several months before we broke up. In fact, Ko Tao was where I’d learned that he’d met a girl named D and watched a sunset and sunrise with her on a rooftop of some hostel, which told me that he’d cheated on me. So for some twisted reason, or a form of self torture, that knowing made me want to go there and stay in that hostel. I was obviously still very torn up about our breakup, though I knew it was inevitable and as I shared earlier, my traveling to SE Asia alone, was done with a little attitude of fuck you to my ex, after seeing several months of his Facebook feed full of him and his exciting life without me. So I wanted to be strategic in my plan to 1-up his adventures, but babysitting S** didn’t fit into that agenda. But now I knew how to get to Ko Tao thanks to these travelers; there was a ferry leaving at 4am and I’d be on it.
The second night in Ko Samui, S** and his drinking got a little much for me, so I told him I wanted to be alone after dinner. He happily obliged as he’d met some ladies at the bar, so the next time I saw him was when he stumbled into our casita wasted at 2am, telling me how he’d always had a crush on me, and how it would be so romantic if we ended up together on this trip. Umm, thank you but no thank you for sharing your thoughts S**, and with that, I was confident in my plan for us to part ways.
So as S** slept off his drinking, I packed my bag, left him a goodbye note telling him I was off to do my own thing for a bit and I’d reconnect in a few days to check on him. And then I boarded the before sunrise ferry headed for Ko Tao. Yes, I’d just completely ditched my friend on the morning of day 3 of our month long trip and I couldn’t have been happier about it.
From there, my solo adventure began; but it was never solo, which was the fun part. I met various travelers from all over the world, and we explored the islands together, the city of Bangkok, Chiangmai, we headed over to Cambodia for a week and I wrapped up the trip by meeting up with my algebra teacher from high school at the full moon Party in Ko Phagnan. But I stayed true to my word and stayed in touch with S**, but I’d always tell him where I was as I was preparing to leave. So for 3 weeks I successfully stayed a few steps ahead of him. We didn’t see each other again until leg 1 of our return trip in Bangkok began. So when I saw S** at the check-in for our connecting flight to Narita, Japan, he wasn’t thrilled to see me and he gave me the understandable cold shoulder for ditching him. I was grateful our seats weren’t together.
So when our long layover in Japan began, I stayed aware of where S** was, and I stayed cautiously away from him. I’d had an incredible time on my solo adventure and had met all sorts of new friends, and I wasn’t sure if he could say the same about his experience, nor did I really care. So rather than hear him complain, I stayed away, which meant I had to keep moving around where I was sitting at the airport.
I finally settled into a corner table of a cafe, where I could eat and relax in peace, but i couldn’t help but notice a gorgeous guy sit down at the table beside me. I had my back to the airport terminal so S** couldn’t see me, and this guy was facing the terminal, so we were facing each other other, just a table apart, which means we were only a foot or two apart.
I’d grown pretty comfortable talking to strangers at this point, and I wasn’t going to stop now, so I said hello and smiled, and was warmly greeted by a hello and an innocent inquiry about my travel plans, “where are you headed?” He asked. “I’m headed to Los Angeles, but I have to lay low, because there’s a guy out there in the terminal that I don’t want to see.” And with that, he and I began a fun 3 hour hangout, as we were on the same flight. His name was Jayson, and he was from Oregon but he lived in Los Angeles, because that’s where his band mainly played. He’d been traveling all throughout Asia playing music, writing a book and surfing. He looked a lot like the singer Jack Johnson, but more handsome; and he had curly dark hair, olive skin, green eyes and I could tell his body was amazing just by the prominent veins in his arms. We laughed and lounged together like we’d known each other for years, and 3 hours passed in the blink of an eye.
As the time came for us to head back towards our departure gate, Jayson stayed by my side to help block any interference from S**. We saw on our tickets that we were 1 row apart from sitting right next to each other, him in an aisle of the middle section of seats, and me 1 seat in. And it was Jayson who suggested that we ask the person behind us to switch aisles with him so that he could sit next to me. And with that he kept a hand either on my shoulder or on my lower back as we approached the boarding area. Every cell in me prayed the person behind us would agree to switch seats and now I’d have several more hours next to Jayson. But what would I do with all that time? We’d already talked about so much already.
As the plane took off and I settled more into my seat, I noticed Jayson leaning into me just enough so that our shoulders touched. I was acutely aware of the touching because normally I’d never let myself touch my neighbor if I could help it. We talked and laughed through the refreshments being served and through my needing to climb over him twice to pee. We had complimentary movies on our flight, and earlier Jayson had showed me the fancy new ear bud head phones he’d just purchased, so when he asked if I wanted to watch a movie with him, and he handed me one of his ear buds, my heart raced. Yes! He was making excuses to touch me and get closer and I loved every moment. Now we had more of a reason to scoot closer together because we were having a shared movie experience. I couldn’t believe this was happening and how lucky I felt to have this experience be wrapping up my solo adventure.
I was barely paying attention to the movie because Jayson’s hair kept brushing my cheek and his right hand was now on my left thigh, gently stroking it. Oh my god, I was in heaven and I wanted this flight to last forever. I watched Jayson’s right hand moved away from my knee and he picked up the blanket and pulled it over his head, but peaked out enough to smile at me and nod to me to come closer and join him under the blanket fort he’d created. And when I leaned in under the blanket, he kissed me. And not just a little kiss, I mean he took the back of my neck and pulled me in and KISSED me for what felt like 10 minutes. What broke us apart was a little bit of turbulence, and we laughed and I leaned my head onto his shoulder as he stroked my head.
Part of me wanted to figure out what this was and what it meant; but the other part of me didn’t care and just wanted to enjoy this moment for whatever it was, however long it was. Jayson and I seemed to be completely in sync, moreso than I’d ever experienced with anyone this quickly. And after the kiss and the movie, we stayed wrapped around each other for over an hour. When he did begin to stir, I watched him stand up and go into the overhead bin to get something. With both hands up in his luggage he peered at me from the side of his arms and winked, and I saw what he’d gone to get. It was a condom. Holy shit. Did he just initiate a non verbal discussion about the mile club? I smiled back and nodded. He then flashed an open hand at me signaling 5 min, and I watched him head a few rows back towards the bathroom and stand to the right, signaling which stall he’d be in.
I waited for what felt like 5 minutes and then slowly rose from my seat and headed back towards the stall on the right; convinced everyone on the plane knew what was about to happen. When I reached the back of the plane the coast was clear so I tapped gently on the bathroom door, about to be completely embarrassed if I’d read the signs incorrectly. But the door slid open and there was Jayson, taking me by the front of my shirt and pulling me towards him and locking the door again. And there we were kissing passionately in the restroom and he lifted me up onto the sink and kissed my neck. We obviously couldn’t stay like this for long because I was sure there were people waiting and wondering outside, so I gave him 1 more enormous kiss and then pulled back, giving him the non verbal cue that it was now or never. And with that, Jayson unzipped his pants and unwrapped the condom and put it on. And now for the unveiling of me; Jayson began to gently scoot my leggings down and lift my shirt at the same time so that he could kiss my stomach. My breathing was fast and my heart was racing at the reality of what was about to happen; my initiation into the mile high club. But just as my underwear went down and Jayson began to position himself, I heard, “oh babe, did you know you have your period?” Wait, what?! No! I obviously didn’t know this, but I looked down and sure enough, my underwear was completely red, as was my face.
I felt the blissful moment slipping away and it disappeared completely as Jayson gave me a few paper towels, removed the condom and zipped up his pants. He was as gracious to me in this moment as he could be, and we both half smiled, clearly disappointed by my period sabotaging our mile high moment. Jayson then told me he’d head out first, so that I could do whatever I needed to do to clean up. And with that, the bathroom door opened, he slipped out and closed it, and I was left alone in the airplane bathroom with my bloody underwear.
It took me a few minutes to clean up, and when I headed back to my seat, Jayson stood up to let me back in and smiled warmly at me. But this smile was the kind that he’d give anyone he’d just gotten up to let them back into their airplane seat. It wasn’t the kind of connected smile of two people who had just shared what we had in the bathroom. And suddenly, I felt so grateful for the overhead announcement that we were in preparation for landing. I sat there for the remaining 20 minutes next to Jayson wanting to both laugh and cry, and I watched him write in his journal. He had a journal?! This guy was amazing. But then my head got in the way and I began to panic. Do I get his last name? Do I friend him on Facebook? Would we have any friends in common? Would he want my phone number? I didn’t have any answers, nor did I know what I wanted, so I let him take the lead.
Jayson still leaned on me so that our shoulders touched during our final landing, and as we collected our stuff he kept touching me with a knee, a shoulder or an elbow, when he could have avoided it. So I took that as a sign of our lingering connection. I walked behind him as we exited the plane, wondering how this re entry was going to go. We’d landed just 1 gate away from baggage claim, so as we headed out into the airport terminal, he said he had a big group of his family waiting for him out there, so this was his time to say goodbye. And with that, we shared a long sweet hug. No last name was given, no contact info, just a first name, a great makeout, a bizarre bathroom rendezvous and a hug. And that was enough for me.
He headed out ahead of me to baggage claim and sure enough, he had 5 or 6 family members waiting with a big welcome home Jayson sign. And on the other side of the baggage claim area was S** waving his hands at me to let me know he’d already grabbed my backpack. My adventure was over and I was back in the united states and I’d just had one of the most amazing experiences of my trip in the last few hours, but I couldn’t imagine ever sharing publicly that it happened. Until now.
So to all other members of the mile high club, I see now what an initiation it is; and though I may not have a full membership, I have a new appreciation for it.
And to Jayson, wherever you are in this world, thanks for the experience. You were such a gentleman, even when met with a mess, and you helped me feel desirable and special at a time when I needed it.
Onwards to more adventures