Nose to the sky, we fly through the crisp December air splitting the clouds into millions of pieces.
This setting is familiar.
My legs sit on the plastic leather seat. Iced coffee to my right. The sky is painted with city lights that glimmer along the black horizon. A man made Milky Way.
Where are you off to?
I take the large headphones off my head and rest them around my neck.
Well, duh, But I mean after we land. Boston, Boston, or like Worcester Boston? He inquires.
Haha, well, right outside. I’m on the red line. Does that count?
I guess so.
He asks me where my accent is.
I tell him I left it at Logan airport in September. I’m going to pick it up at Terminal A when we land.
I snap a picture of the sunrise.
Have you ever seen one of those before?
He’s sarcastic, but so am I. I understand the language.
No, I haven’t. I’m hoping to share this phenomenon with my Instagram followers. Maybe make it on National Geographic or something.
It’s a smooth trip so far.
I tell him about the time I was shot 6 feet in the air on my way back from Ann Arbor due to severe turbulence.
6 feet, huh? And you lived to tell the tale?
I’m here, aren’t I?
He rolls up the sleeves of his black and red checkered flannel and scratches his 5 o’clock shadow.
The clouds remind me of unicorn toast. The rainbow clouds, like butter, are lightly spread across the soft blue sky.
I tell him about this comparison.
He tells me that the unicorn trend is dumb.
I nod in agreement. He doesn’t need to know that I follow a unicorn toast account on Instagram.
The ice in my coffee is melting. I tell him to stop distracting me so I don’t waste my $3.42 that I spent on this beverage.
Iced coffee in the winter, huh? You’re a true Massachusetts gal I guess.
We talk about our confusion with Wawa. Why do people love gas station food so much? It puzzles us. I tell him that I went to the new Dupont location and was overwhelmed and grabbed a Greek salad from across the street instead.
It’s refreshing to chat New England things with a fellow New Englander. I tell him this.
You flatter me.
I roll my eyes.
Haha, you’re right though. DC chat can be sort of exhausting sometimes, right? Like, I’m just trying to enjoy my beer why you gotta bring up tax reform?
I laugh. I can empathize.
We start to descend. 20 minutes until we land, the pilot tells us.
The clouds begin to break. I can see the ocean beneath us. I don’t fear flying, but my stomach turns ever so slightly when we are above water.
I close my eyes.
You can’t nap now. We’re about to land and you need to keep me distracted because I get nervous when I fly over water.
I smile and look at him. For a moment, I forget my fear of crashing into the deep depths of the Atlantic Ocean.
The ice in my coffee is melted. I take a sip anyways.
Ugh, this tastes like pond water now, I complain.
Sorry, I think I have $3 in my wallet, but you’re gunna have to come up with the 42 cents.
How about you just buy me a coffee in DC?
It was like word vomit.
Did I just ask this guy out? What the actual fuck Beth. Here we are, two strangers casually chatting on a plane, nervous AF flying over the Atlantic Ocean and you just made it weird. Gr8. Awesome. Well done.
Suddenly, crashing into the deep depths of the Atlantic Ocean doesn’t sound half bad.
Coffees are more expensive in DC, he responds, that doesn’t seem fair.
I turn red and my stomach is still twisting — and it’s not because of the water. I snort out a laugh as a nervous reaction. I don’t use “snort” for literary effect. I use it to describe the actual sound that came out of my mouth.
How about this, he suggests, I’ll buy you a $5 cappuccino from some trendy coffee shop, but then you gotta pick up the $1.58 and get me a scone or something.
A scone? I scoff at him. How about a bagel? My stomach starts to feel normal again.
Fine. Just make sure they don’t overdo it on the cream cheese.
The wheels hit the runway and the plane shakes. I hold onto what’s left of my pond water. Coffee, I mean. At this point they are one in the same.
Which one is your bag?
The purple one.
He points, this one? No way. Is this vintage L.L. Bean?
You bet it is.
We exit the airplane and he hands me back my phone. 603. A New Hampshire zip code.
My names Ben*, by the way, I don’t think I ever told you. Pencil me in for after the holidays. I hope Santa brings you a new duffle bag. You’re overdue. Merry Christmas, Beth.
Merry Christmas, Ben.