've never been on a plane, but I imagine sitting next to an aging Irishman. Pale, chubby, balding but not graying. Wisps of thinning orange above his ears and he's not the type to dye it. I can tell before I sit down that he smiles too much, that he will smile through the entire flight, and that maybe his wife left him years before because of all that smiling. As if the whole marriage he was daring her to project some variant of emotion onto his stupid grin, and eventually she just gave up and moved back home to Illinois. Only a tidy note in blue pen on the kitchen table to say bye. Not goodbye, either, just bye forever period, like you'd say to a friendly stranger on an empty bus in a city you're just visiting for the long weekend. And maybe he even smiled at the note before crumpling it into a ball and tossing it gracelessly into the trash like molding lasagna.
He smiles at me from the window seat, says his name is Frank Lind and how do you do. I want the window seat. I've never flown before, and I've always had the urge to see people shrink until they vanish. Alice in Wonderland OD'ing on mushrooms. I say, I'm fine, and flash him a look like it could be my name as well as my condition. Make a mental note to name my third child Fine, boy or girl. Or maybe not girl. He asks if I've ever flown. Is it that obvious? It is. He smiles and offers the window seat. I accept hesitantly, with manners, with fingers crossed. He climbs over me, all midwestern Irish bulk and cologne, probably smiling to the stewardess, apologizing for the commotion with his eyes and teeth.
I buckle a seat belt or something secure, a harness, and the plane lurches forward. Cars become ants. People disappear. I see clouds up close for the first time, and their sharpness startles me--not like fog at all, but like strands of crystal, like thin glass wands that you could hold with leather gloves. This is all my imagination, of course, I've still never seen clouds up close. Here and there they sparkle like fresh snow.
The whole time I'm nodding toward Frank Lind, mumbling agreement when the silence seems to call for it. He talks as much as he smiles. He asks where I'm headed, why I'm all dappered up like a penguin. He really talks like this.
Theme Parks, I say, For a honeymoon. He looks under the seat, in my coat pocket, as if for the missing Honey, and I explain that I haven't met her yet. I tell him I fell in love online, in a chat room, with a mind instead of a face, and he looks at me confused, but still smiling stupidly. The plane rocks like a cradle.
He tells me that when we land I should head down to Key West. Fifteen girls there for every guy. He saw a PBS documentary awhile back, footage of a pair of girls hustling some guy, just sitting on a bench eating a ham sandwich and they wanted to pick him up together and couldn't. Fine-looking girls too. Have to beat them off with a stick, and some of them even like it, pay for it in dark alleys if you want to pick up some quick cash. Went to a club down there with a friend, The Point After, football theme, biggest club on the east coast. Danced with this crazy dame in a g-string. The biggest knockers you ever seen.
Then something sputters. Something sounds wrong. The swaying deepens, and we start to pitch and roll, our seats shudder despite being bolted to the floor. An earthquake without the earth.
People around us start shouting, fidgeting, thinking fast, fast. Frank Lind just keeps smiling. This might be it, he says. He looks over at me like we're old friends, and in my imagination now we might be. He obviously wants me to say something profound. I don't want to let him down, we're such good friends. I lie and say, I'm gay. He believes me, says, Doesn't that feel better, son, finally getting it out? And then we all plunge happily into the salty Atlantic like a bloated dolphin at Sea World.
Timothy Green is a graduate of the University of Rochester living in upstate New York while working both as a group home counselor and Assistant Poetry Editor for RATTLE magazine. His writing has appeared recently or is forthcoming in RATTLE, Tryst, The Wolf Poetry, Stirring, and other publications.
Back to the Top
Issue 12 |
story copyright by author 2004 all rights reserved