Image Flash #26
It pushed, dropped, and popped his ears.
Then it was done.
“Excuse me, do you have any gum?” He asked.
She opened her purse and rummaged. It was a slick red thing. The flat sort of purse you brought on a date. It didn’t have a strap, just one of those little loopy bits meant to wrap around your wrist and dangle.
“No.” She answered.
“Thanks anyway.” She nodded and looked out the window. Harper was in the aisle seat, next to her. He supposed he could have moved to a window too, but he didn’t want to. It would seem strange. Of course, it was already strange.
He twisted toward the back of the plane, looking for the stewardess. Nothing. He tapped his finger on the arm rest. They were still ascending, not even as high as the clouds yet. It had only been a few minutes since liftoff and he couldn’t take it. He turned to the woman next to him.
“It’s not just me. This is really weird, right?”
She turned from her view outside to look at the cabin. They were the only two passengers on board. Row after row of empty seats filled the plane.
“I guess people don’t want to go where we’re going.”
“Then why’d they take off? I mean, they wouldn’t fly all the way for just a pair of tickets. That doesn’t make sense.”
She shrugged. “Maybe. Or maybe one of us is very important.”
He wasn’t buying it. There had to be a good reason. Maybe the plane had to get back for servicing or something. He couldn’t imagine what sort of servicing it couldn’t have gotten in New York, but that had to be it. That made some amount of sense. Maybe it was a scheduling thing.
“Well, anyway, I guess our seat assignments don’t really matter with all these empty seats.” He unbuckled his belt and started to get up. “I’ll give you your space.”
“Look.” She said, pointing out the window.
He leaned over, to see what she was pointing at. He was acutely aware of how close this brought him to her body and he studiously avoided looking at her. She was beautiful; a petite woman with deep red hair that was almost brown. She had circular black framed glasses with bright eyes behind them. It came across as an intentional attempt to make her look older. She was no child, but attractiveness is often associated with the young. He suspected the glasses, and her classy dress and purse, were intended to convey competency. She didn’t want to be judged on her looks. He discovered that he was doing his best to meet her unspoken desire even though they’d never met. He didn’t look at her body. He looked where she wanted.
The sun was setting. It was a massive orange orb on the horizon. At this altitude, it seemed impossibly big. Distortions from the window glass caused amber streaks of light to prism in his vision. Black dots. Blind spots.
She kept looking at it. “Is it? You don’t have to move. I don’t mind the company.”
This surprised him. “Well, all right then. I certainly wouldn’t mind it either.”
She didn’t say anything else. He reached into the fold in the seat in front of him and pulled out the in-flight magazine. It was almost entirely adds for resorts and luggage. There was a article on Georgia peanuts. As if the planes served peanuts anymore. He looked up and down the aisle again, looking for a stewardess. Still nothing. He hadn’t seen one since he’d boarded.
“If we ever get somebody to come around we could get a drink.” He said.
“Don’t do that.”
“Do what?” He asked.
He cringed inside. He was suddenly aware of how he’d been mentally hoping for a fiction, acting in a way that wouldn’t eliminate the possibility, even though it was a ridiculous speculation. He didn’t like being reminded that it was all up to her. God damn it, he knew he was the supplicant. He didn’t need reminders. His temper rose a tiny bit.
“Then how about you talk.”
She shifted to face him. She looked over her glasses at him and he felt like she was really looking him over for the first time.
“I said I didn’t mind company. Since when is that the same thing as talking?”
“I just thought…”
She blew out a deep sigh. “I’m sure. It’s just not how I was hoping to spend my last trip. I’d hoped to enjoy the view, and the quiet, and perhaps to know I wasn’t alone doing it.”
“Last trip? You’re planning on staying forever, are you?”
She squinted at him. “We both are.”
He shook his head. “No, not me. I’m only going for a short trip.”
Her expression shifted into incredulity. “Do you not know where you’re going?”
“Of course I do.”
She challenged his assertion. “Where?”
Harper racked his brain. Where the hell was he going? He couldn’t for the life of him remember. She continued.
“I know exactly where I’m going and why. Maybe you should sit somewhere else after all. Perhaps think about why you’re here.”
She turned back to look at the sun. It looked even bigger, almost filling up the entire compartment, casting orange light in shafts across the cabin.
“I’m sorry.” He said.
Then he did what she wanted and moved to another seat. He sat there, looking at the back of her head, thinking, wishing things were different.
The stewardess never came. The light got brighter and brighter as they descended.
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