I have a tickle in my throat that goes down my lungs and into my belly. Make me laugh and I will cough, convulsively. It will sound like I’m hyperventilating because I am. The more air I give myself the worse it is. Air is like this toxic love affair—I know I need it but the more I have, the more it hurts.
My neighbor in seat 23E cringes each time I open my mouth. She is a woman who has snake-like qualities, is long, lean, and impeccable peripheral vision. She has one eye on the mass-market paperback novel she purchased at the Hudson News stand before boarding and the other eye watching me, surreptitiously. While one eye paces the words, the other watches me breathe. She’s constantly cringing and I doubt it’s because the plot is so engaging.
Sickness. I have no idea if I’m contagious, but 23E sure thinks I am. I wonder if it would have put her at more at ease if I boarded the plane wearing a SARS mask; probably not.
She may be a decent woman and not worth all this commentary. When she sat down and stored her lovely brand name tote bag, I smiled and she smiled back. There was all the potential in the world for us to be best friends a 6-hour transcontinental flight could accommodate, except that I coughed, and all promises for a future together shattered like a glass souvenir in checked baggage.
There’s a businessman wearing a crisp white button-up shirt. As long as his WIFI works and his PowerPoint loads at a cruising altitude of 30,000 feet, he will not pay attention to my coughs. The cabin is quiet. Even though it was an afternoon flight, half of the passengers are passed out, snuggling with people they’re supposed to or unconsciously snuggling with those they’re not.
There are parents with mostly-well-behaved kids doing art projects across the aisle. They’ve packed a cooler full of food to feed many hungry children. I have not asked if they’re going or coming, and I have no idea what they’re doing with a glue stick. And they have a giant stuffed shark that just popped out of nowhere.
I need to sneeze, but I’m worried 23E will lose it.
Time stands still at this altitude. We’re halfway through our flight and it’s dark outside my window. The reflection of the moon is pacing us through a reflection on the wing of the 737. The businessman is finishing up his deliverable, the snake lady is flipping another page, my headphones are blasting my favorite bands and I’m one beer shy of creativity. Other than my own internal monologue this flight is uneventful.
I’m on my way to Jersey, the New one, to spend a few weeks with my sister, brother-in-law, and family that will arrive in stages. She’s expecting the first baby in our family on Sunday the 21st, but my new niece/nephew is guaranteed to be late. I’ll be cooking the Thanksgiving turkey and I am excited beyond belief.
Photo Credit: ecstaticist
Editor’s Note: This is a work of fictionalized observation, mostly.