So I've started writing a new book! (Well, I stared seven months ago...Exciting, I know). Anyway, I'm hoping to have it finished by the end of the month, so I thought now would be a good time to share the first few pages. Because...why the hell not!?!? Enjoy the weekend!
I kissed my palm and placed it against the metal of the plane.
“Thank you for flying with us,” a stewardess said. She watched me lower my hand and then scratch the back of my freshly shaved head. She smiled, and I noticed her lipstick was pink, not a typical red.
“It’s superstition,” I said. “Always kiss the plane when you get off.”
The stewardess laughed, and her large breasts shook.
I walked down the runway. People passed me on both sides and brushed against my body and my large duffle bag. Anywhere else it would feel uncomfortable to make this much physical contact with complete strangers, but here it felt oddly safe to do so, and I slowed my pace.
“You kill people,” a voice said. I looked down and saw a boy no older than five years old, or at least I thought. He looked up, but I only saw part of his face due to an oversized baseball cap that hung loose around his scalp.
“Thomas,” a woman said. She lifted the boy and forced his face into her neck.
“I’m sorry. It’s just the news.” She waited for my response, and I exhaled and stopped walking, causing a small clutter of traffic to form behind me as the woman walked into the distance holding her boy.
When I reached the airport I expected to watch dozens of travelers reunite with loved ones. A husband away on business kisses his wife, a daughter away in the Peace Corps hugs her father, but there was nothing. Airport security no longer allows passengers to greet the outside world when they first exit their plane, leaving the light at the end of the runway tunnel to be more human traffic.
I took a step forward. My duffle bag felt heavy.
Two hours later I stood fifteen yards away from x-ray machines and metal detectors. On the other side of them was a place I knew nothing about, and more importantly had no security constantly patrolling on makeshift golf carts to assure my safety. I watched people exit the airport and people enter. For the people entering, they took off their shoes, their belts, and anything else that could possibly cause a threat. For the people exiting, they left with no inspection.
I scratched the back of my freshly shaved head.
“Hey,” a voice said. “You in the army?”
I turned and saw a man sitting at a table outside of a bar. His placement made him seem disconnected to the other drinkers lined up on their stools, but he clearly belonged.
“Not officially,” I said. And I looked down at my camouflage pants and grey t-shirt. The word ARMY was written across it in large, capital letters.
The man smiled.
“Want to join me?”
“I’m waiting for someone.”
“You’ve been waiting for an hour.”
“You’ve been watching me?”
“I’ve been watching you.”
And the man sipped his drink, light brown liquid with three ice cubes bobbing up and down, fighting with one another to stay afloat.
“What are you worried about?” the man said. “No one has weapons here.”
He stood and I fully saw his maroon suit and large red bow tie. The outfit was clean, but worn, making it difficult to tell whether he was old fashioned, rich, or off. I walked closer to his table, and then turned back to security.
Dozens of beltless people, men with guns.
“This isn’t a small town, no one’s going to peak over the crowd and greet you…unless maybe it’s a girl.”
I remained still, and I watched an old woman have the outside of her upper left thigh rubbed after three failed attempts of passing through the metal detector.
“No girl,” I said. And behind me I felt a smile. I felt sweat bubble up on my arms, and I heard a chair slide away from the man’s table.
I sat and held my hands together. I had nowhere else to put them.
“If you don’t want a drink, then why did you sit down?”
The man raised his arm and winked. I was unsure what these gestures meant, but regardless a waiter soon came with a glass of light brown liquid. He slid it towards me, leaving a wet line that clearly divided the table.
“Would you rather a beer?”
“This is fine.”
“Knew you were a classy kid.”
And the man smiled and swallowed his drink whole, taking him less than two seconds. He emptied the ice cubes into his mouth and sucked his cheeks in, squeezing his lips to a bright red, not a typical pink.
“So, how old are you? Twenty five or twenty six?”
He laughed and tilted his face up, revealing his large Adam’s apple, dancing with each breath.
“And how old are you?”
“How old do you think?”
“I’m bad with ages, don’t want to insult you.”
“If you’re bad, then guess.”
The man smiled and rested his chin on the bridge of his two connecting hands. He leaned in and I tightly gripped my glass; light brown liquid with no ice cubes.
I turned. At the bar was a woman with a large plate of nachos in front of her. She wasn’t eating her food, just staring down at it. By the men’s bathroom was a janitor. He bent down, picked up a dollar bill, and cautiously put it into his pocket. And on a nearby chair, right next to the man’s chair, was a bag with a red belt resting on it.
“Why didn’t you put your belt back on?”
I gestured at the chair.
“After you went through security, why didn’t you put it back on?”
“Then why is it on your bag?”
“Because I took it off again.”
The man bit down his teeth, and I heard an ice cube crush inside of his mouth.
“I’m forty seven years old, you know. Four dash seven, and I’ve been flying my whole life. Been on six continents, thirty five countries, and have flown around the earth probably a dozen times if you add the miles.”
A small bead of sweat formed on the man’s cheek. He quickly wiped it away.
“But you still don’t like flying?”
And the man squirmed in his chair, noticing security and random people aimlessly moving by. Still no travelers reuniting with their loved ones, just traffic and traffic.
“I love flying,” I said. “People like saying how screwed up everything is, but when you’re in a plane it shows we can do something right.”
The man opened his mouth, yawning, a silent scream, and I separated my hands.
“Sitting in a chair thousands of feet in the sky.”
“So you’re an optimist?”
“I just like flying.”
And I took my first sip, closed my eyes, and felt light brown liquid burn my throat and kill any words trying to escape past my clenched teeth. I reopened them and the man leaned into the table, much closer than before. He reached for my glass and swallowed the liquid whole, taking him less than one second.
“Always need to drink before I get on the plane.”
“Superstition,” I said. And the man was silent. He raised his arm and flicked his wrist, more gestures I didn’t understand, and a waiter came over holding another drink. The man aggressively took it, causing it to spill on his hands and suit, which he licked off, absorbing every lost drop back into his body. He then stared at me.
“You know that feeling you get when you lean back in your chair,” the man said. “And you almost fall over but you catch yourself right before you tip.” He leaned back. “That’s what flying makes me feel like.”
The man raised his glass, saluting nothing, and he admired a drop of liquid sliding down to his fingers.
“But this makes it better. Instead of making me feel like I’m about to fall, I just feel like I’m already falling, and falling isn’t scary. Standing on the edge of a cliff is scary. Flying in a plane is scary. But if you can find something that makes everything seem like it’s already falling, then nothing is falling. Get it?”
I scratched the back of my freshly shaved head. The man wobbled.
“Like if I jump off a building, but everything around me jumps off too and is falling at the same speed, than nothing is going down. If everything is together, then everything is still. No place to crash.” Sweat layered on the man’s forehead, and he leaned back farther, allowing me to see the inside of his suit jacket.
There were brown stains on the inside.
“Alcohol makes you feel like that?”
“Alcohol!” The man leaned forward, causing the chair to hit the ground with a bang. People at the bar stared in our direction, and fifteen feet away a security guard drove by on a makeshift golf cart.
“You think alcohol can do that? Make you feel that good?” The man wiped his forehead, laughed, and panted. He hit his hands on the table, hard enough so my glass danced with each blow. He then raised his arm, much higher than the previous times, and leaned in so our faces were only inches apart. He smiled, and then slowly brought his hand down, whistling, making it seem like a falling bomb; a falling plane. When his hand touched the table he shook and made explosion noises, which quickly turned into uncontrollable laughter. Thicker beads of sweat now layered his forehead and cheeks, growing larger and dripping to his red bow tie.
“Security isn’t that good here,” the man said. “Trust me!”
I quickly stood and knocked over my chair. I picked up my duffle bag and walked to the exit, to the x-ray machines, to the metal detectors, and to an unknown world. Though with each step I still heard the man’s laughter and screams that echoed off my back.
“Usually I would have put my hand on your thigh. But you’re too cute. With a head like a fresh, green grape!”