The TU-134 aircraft was quite suitable, if not for all the passengers who packed it like a communal flat. Without passengers, the cabin would have looked quite nice: neat with virgin white headrests. I was in a state of unrest when I boarded the plane. Either I was overfilled with love or I was in want of love, I can’t say. I’d spent the night in my apartment, deserted without my wife, and now I was flying to the sea after her.
A young woman took the seat beside me. She was so close that our forearms laid one upon the other on the armrest between us. You couldn’t rely on the armrest: whenever one’s arm moved it up, one’s forearm leaned against the other’s body side. As I said, the plane was nice but cramped.
At once I sensed the woman’s body at my elbow, which leaned against a soft spot where her breast met her chest. I felt her body straightaway but didn’t withdraw my forearm. As I said, I’d been filled with emotions anyway, and perhaps, apparently, so was this woman. But I hadn't made out her countenance properly yet.
I feared turning toward her and our eyes meeting. The moment I’d casually sensed her body, I’d felt hot at once. I could have met her inspiring glance, implying something more in the future. But I needed nothing from her in the future; I preferred enjoying her contact right there. They say partners know one another by scent. That may well be, but it’s not true of me because I don’t remember her scent. I just had to nudge her a bit to make myself comfortable, to feel cozy as one feels at home with a cat on his lap.
The young lady sat quietly and didn’t turn to face me. Possibly, she didn’t want to scare away my forearm, cuddling up to her side. While my palm was nestling down on the armrest, a tense angle of my elbow made headway to her warm flesh. The contact was arousing, and she sighed profoundly twice or thrice, and so my forearm lay even more comfortably there. In fact, it started living together with her. Her body kept time with my arm: I felt her bosom rising in waves with my burning elbow. And when the plane hit an air pocket, she would snuggle up closer to me, and though I gasped during the turbulence, I was willing to endure it, even hoping that the airliner would never straighten out.
It felt as if there were only the two of us aboard the humming airliner. I wanted the flight never to finish. It all felt risky like diving with a mask with bated breath: when you go deep into the water unwittingly, imperceptibly, and then you are attracted to the depth, which feels so much like the sky, sensing nothing but the density of the water, afraid of breathing in and perceiving nothing but the light beyond, where the sky once was.
When our flight landed, passengers made their way out pressing each other unintentionally. For a moment she and I were clasped one to another, then we were set free as if a spring inside one or the other had expanded. She heaved a sigh in the end—I think it was wistful—and then she glanced into my face and left me wasted.
My camera clicked after her as if a dog chattering his teeth but catching no bone. The sky was cloudless, and I was in the South. The sun set leaving me with nothing to take pictures of.
Among rolls of films, there is one of the photos of that summer vacation. But no picture of the young woman, and I still can't recall her scent. The only other thing I remember is that I had burnt my arms up to my elbows, and my wife refused to lotion my skin with cold kefir.
Valery V. Petrovskiy Valery lives in Russia in a remote village by the Volga River. His prose has been published in the U.S. in The Legendary, Danse Macabre, The Other Room, and Apollo’s Lyre, among other venues.