A mind can wander when one is travelling alone.
After I stowed my bag in the overhead compartment of possibly the tiniest jet flying in the continental United States, bumping my head on the bin across the 12 inch aisle and swearing out loud in front of thirty passengers, I moved to my seat where a very nice looking guy, maybe my age, quickly stood up and asked, “How’s your head?”
I offered him the window seat, partly to be nice and partly because I misread C and D as in it not registering right away which one was actually the window seat. I felt like a Weeble looking for the right peg in a Fisher Price toy airplane.
I settled in by the window, arranging my airplane lucky charms, the big bottle of water, the triple-wrapped blueberry muffin, the new low brow novel, this one Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen, and a new People magazine, plucked from the bottom of the stack to make sure no one had thumbed through it and tarnished my star news. I want the pages to be completely fresh.
The take-off revving started up and I began the silent chanting of my mantra, the same ‘this plane will crash, no one lives forever, my turn is next, nothing can be done about it, I just have to be at home with it’ mantra I’ve been saying during take-off for the past 25 years. All the while, I caught glimpses out of the corner of my eye of the man who asked about my head. He had a dress shirt on, khaki pants, and really nice sneakers. A handsome watch, a silver bracelet and a ring on his right hand.
What if, I thought, what if my husband of 30 years died? Would I ever be interested in someone else? Is it even conceivable? Say I became single again, I could be sitting on this toy plane with this guy and we could be going someplace together.
Meanwhile I leafed through my People, I read about J-Lo’s new album and made up my own mind about which star looked better in white on the red carpet and was not surprised that Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas had broken up since I thought they were mismatched from the jump and then I glanced over at Mr. Khaki who was reading this: “Not in His Image: Gnostic Vision, Sacred Ecology and the Future of Belief.”
That’s fine. I already figured he was wrong for me.
For one thing, I noticed that he had rolled up little cuffs on his pants and not because his pants were too long. It appeared to me to be a purposeful accent, a conscious accentuation of his outfit. I like men who are well put together but this seemed precious. I couldn’t possibly be involved with someone like that, no matter how caring or otherwise good looking.
The plane started to jump and jive. This is the point in flights when I grab my husband’s hand; he tolerates this until he has to turn the page on his New York Times Magazine and then I must cope alone.
I was immediately conscious of the high risk of grabbing Mr. Khaki’s hand in a little moment of panic. I’ve done something similar, softly caressing a man’s hand that was resting on a railing while I was waiting in line for popcorn at the drive-in movies and then realizing that my date was standing in front of me with his hands in his pocket. It was mortifying and inexplicable and creepy.
Not wanting to suffer this sickening feeling of self-creepiness again, I resolved to keep my hands to myself. Hold your own hands, Jan. That’s what I told myself. So I locked my hands together like I was Anne Boleyn praying to be spared the sword. The turbulence was sporadic but I kept my hands locked under my People until we got above the clouds and were flying in the blue.
Later in the airport, I saw him walking up ahead. He was very tall. Another reason he would be unsuitable for me should I ever be widowed and meet him on another plane. That and the rolled up cuffs were just too much.
So in closing, I would just like to say this. There’s a reason why people have interior lives.