I hate flying.
My two-hour and ten-minute flight to Prague seemed to last for at least half a day. But then I had been awake all night and your brain tends to hit the brakes when it realizes you have had two breakfasts in one long day. The reason for this was fear of missing the early morning coach from Southampton to London. Time was more relative than ever.
In any case, by the time the plane landed my legs were dead. I stood up and ground my teeth in pain. I thought arthritis would come with old age, my 19 year-old self thought. The girl sitting next to me looked up at me. I feigned a smile and bid her farewell as the people in front started to funnel out. She was cute and I knew I would never see her again.
Rewind back about four hours. The harsh London winter tried to kill me and I hurried away from the coach, dragging my luggage through snow. Heathrow was right there, a modern beast of a building like somebody’s sense of art, whatever that means these days. I walked through the doors and was hit by a sudden heat which steamed up my glasses. I hate flying, I repeated like a mantra as I navigated half-blindly through corridors. I got on an escalator, unzipped my jacket and wiped my glasses in my shirt. At least now the numerous adverts along the sides were clearly visible. I'm sorry, I mean advert—they were all the same. I looked at the people around me and already felt claustrophobic.
I got rid of my luggage at the check-in counter and headed to the security check. There is simple method to that place: remove all accessories and instead of dumping them in the tray put them in your jacket pockets. This saves time at the other end—just grab your jacket, move away and then see what’s what. There is also the laptop: remove it from the bag, separate tray, yadda-yadda. You know the drill if you have one.
I did all that and stepped through the metal detectors anticipating something to go wrong. There was not a beep. Relieved, I went to gather my items but one of the security people motioned me to stop. "You can’t wear that," he said in a mild Indian accent and pointed at me. I looked down. Anyone with a happy childhood should remember the Bomberman game. I had a t-shirt of it.
"What?" I mumbled.
"It might offend people. Change it."
"I don’t have anything else on me."
"Then I’m afraid I can’t let you through." There was no humor in his voice.
"What about my jacket?" I asked in panic and pointed at the tray.
He thought for a moment and said: "Put it on and zip up."
I followed his orders and hurried away, feeling his gaze upon me. "People like you want to ban Mickey Mouse!" I wanted to shout but restrained myself. It was no time to fight the rat-bastards—I had a plane to board and a family to see, I could not be taken away for interrogation. Instead I unzipped my jacket (it was far too hot), found my gate and sat down. Fuck this post-9/11 world, I thought and waited, wanting to kick something.
Let’s skip the boredom: I sat next to this girl on the plane. She appeared to be in her mid-twenties, had curly brown hair, hazel eyes, and a tiny birthmark on her chin. One of the reasons I hate flying is that it is like the awkwardness of an elevator ride coupled with minor fear of falling. At least in my case—with every small vibration the girl nearly tore her seat apart, dug her nails deep into it. Her face was frozen, not in terror but some strange normality. The wine provided by the stewardess prompted me to be more adventurous so I turned to her and asked: "Nervous?"
She didn’t even look at me, simply nodded.
"Eugh…I don’t like flying much."
"But you like it a little, eh?" I smiled. She didn’t say anything and returned a small smile, although it came across as more of a pained grimace. ‘Want me to let you in on a little secret?’
She nodded again.
"I stay calm by thinking: it’s out of my hands. I mean if we crash, we crash. Sitting here and worrying about it won’t affect the outcome. So I choose to spare my nerves and don’t think about it."
Her hands relaxed but her face remained a statue. She turned to me and said: "THAT’s supposed to HELP?"
Her words crashed through my mind like a brick. I tried to remember what I had said but fatigue tangled it up in a jingle-jangle jumble. Was I really one step away from rambling about God’s kingdom and making references to crashing, all whilst grinning knowingly? Had I cracked? I felt as if I woke up from a dream after waking up from a dream. She seemed to expect a response and I said the only thing I could: "Yeah?"
We didn’t talk much after that. I flipped through a Bukowski novel and doodled rabbits and carrots on the sick bag. Finally the plane landed and I got up. Those hazel eyes looked at me and I moved down the aisle, a sense of loss kicking around my head. She was gone forever.
My feet led me to yet another terminal and I thought: Maybe flying is not so bad after all. They give you wine, you sit next to a pretty gal, you have time to read and think about things… Then I looked at my flight information and noticed it would take another nine hours to reach Beijing. A familiar mantra returned.
I hate flying.
Pearu Unga is a third-year screenwriting undergraduate at Southampton Solent University. When he doesn't complain about writing he attempts to write. He occasionally scribbles on his blog Coke, Keyboard, Blog.