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A Short Flight

He followed me to the back of the plane, continuing to talk in his sonorous voice, the voice of someone selling shaving cream on cable TV, as we walked.

Story by James Reinebold - jay.reinebold@gmail.com Photos by Muge Karamanci
Photo © Muge Karamanci

Photo © Muge Karamanci

The man sitting next to me would not stop talking. Noise from the engines buzzed around us, but he spoke loudly and clearly. There was no chance of pretending not to hear him. “I’ve been on this flight a hundred times,” he said. “And that’s not a hyperbole. Of course, these days most of my work is done remotely…”

He started asking questions. Something compelled me to answer him, although I was able to constrain my responses to short bursts. “A funeral.” “Student.” “Architecture.” He leaned in closer to me. His voice grew louder and I could smell the freshness of his breath and the ghosts of stale cigarettes clinging to his polo shirt. He hadn’t looked like a large man when he first got on board, but now his bulk overflowed his seat and spilled out into the aisle.

Photo © Muge Karamanci

Photo © Muge Karamanci

The stewardess brought us drinks in plastic cups. I showed my ID and got a gin and tonic. He started to ask more pointed questions about my background. I replied as best as I could, the words flowing out of me, but seemingly insufficient.

I unbuckled my seatbelt and stood up. In the bathroom, I hoped, I would be able to have quiet for a few moments. Just a brief respite. He followed me to the back of the plane, continuing to talk in his sonorous voice, the voice of someone selling shaving cream on cable TV, as we walked.

Photo © Muge Karamanci

Photo © Muge Karamanci

The bathroom was occupied. I waited there as he continued his speeches about morphine, Minkowski and mortuaries. When the door finally opened an old woman got out and tottered back to her seat. I stepped inside and shut the door.

His voice resounded from outside. He lectured about libertarian politics, existentialist philosophy, 80’s music television, contemporary Peruvian literature, the development of the atomic bomb, molecular biology, Norwegian cinema, how to prune a bonsai tree and the current coach of the Dallas Cowboys. When I finished he followed me back to my seat.

Photo © Muge Karamanci

Photo © Muge Karamanci

I felt the plane start to descend. The man beside me yelled why Sean Connery made the best James Bond. I desperately wanted to take notes, but didn’t have a pen. Sounds of the landing gear emerging from the bottom of the plane echoed beneath us. He began to talk about his high school physics class and the law of conservation of matter. I answered him in sweeping paragraphs of my own, gesticulating about things I didn’t understand.

Everything shuddered as we touched down on the tarmac. The other passengers turned on their cell phones in unison and began to call family members. The man to my right slumped against his chair. When it was time to deplane he rose silently and shuffled towards the door.

The pilot said goodbye as I stepped out of the plane and into the terminal. The man who had sat in seat 11B waited for his luggage to arrive at the baggage claim carousel.

One Response to “A Short Flight”

  1. […] folks at Citizen Brooklyn have published my short story “A Short Flight.”  Check it […]

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