The plane takes off, and I can barely breathe. I feel it vibrate under my feet.
“Do not pass out. Do not pass out,” I keep telling myself.
The boy next to me doesn’t even look up from his magazine, doesn’t even notice when the plane evens out and the turbulence ends.
When I can finally remove my hands from the armrests, I turn and look at him. He glances up briefly in my direction, before looking back down at this magazine. He’s smirking. I want to smack the magazine right out of his hands, but I take a deep breath instead. I won’t let him bother me. I pull a book from my zebra print bag at my feet and start to read. I’m just getting to the good part where the knight is trying to cross a moat, when I feel a tap on my shoulder.
“Would you mind switching seats with me for a bit?” I ignore him like he did me and keep reading my book. He taps me again and repeats himself louder and slower this time. “Could we switch seats?” “I’m not deaf, and I speak English so don’t talk to me like that.” “Well you didn’t answer me.” “I’m not switching seats with you. This is my seat. I paid for it.” “Would you mind taking some pictures out the window for me then?” he asks trying to hand me his phone.
The mere thought of opening my window makes me sick. I vigorously shake my head and began to unfasten my seat belt. Soon he’s in my seat happily taking pictures while I try not to throw up. The light behind my eyelids grows dimmer, so I know that he’s closed the window. When I open my eyes, it’s to find him staring at me. “You really don’t like flying do you?” he asks. “What gave it away?” “I don’t understand why people are afraid.” “Oh maybe it’s because we could plummet to our deaths at any moment and there would be almost zero chance of our survival.” “You’re not looking at the positive though.” “I’m positive we’re all going to die.” “Or,” he says putting his phone into his jeans pocket. “You think about how lucky we are that the Wright brothers figured out how to fly. If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be able to go to so many amazing places.”
I clutch at my stomach. “I think I’d be okay with that if it meant not being nauseous.”
He shakes his head and turns back to the window. He doesn’t ask to switch seats back, so I don’t ask either. We sit in silence for the rest of the flight waiting to see what will happen. To see if he’ll win or I’ll win this argument we aren’t even having. We’re testing each other even If we don’t know it.
I awake to the sound of the pilot over the loudspeaker. He says we’re landing soon, so I make myself get up and go to the bathroom. I don’t want to stand around in the airport because of bathroom lines. The boy is asleep when I get back, and I feel an odd sense of longing. I wish he’d be awake for the landing. To ride it out with me even if he’s just going to read his magazine.
I’m stepping out into the airport when I feel a hand on my shoulder. I turn to see the boy. He’s holding up the line and people are starting to mumble under their breaths. He ignores them though and reaches out to hand me something. It’s only once I take it from him that I realize that it’s the book I’d been reading on the plane. “You left it behind so I grabbed it for you,” he says before walking away. I think over and over the conversation I had with him on the plane as wait for my cab. I wasn’t really sure who won the game we’d been playing.
I bend down to put my book away, but as I do, a piece of paper falls out of it and lands on the concrete. Hunched down on the sidewalk I open it up. There is a picture of a girl and a boy in an airplane. The girl looks scared while the boy holds a magazine looking amused. Above them are little cartoon mouth bubbles.
The cartoon girl asks, “What if I fall?” To which the cartoon boy responds. “Oh, but my darling what if you fly?”