In-Flight Connection

On a connecting flight from Tallahassee home to Kansas City, I fell in love. Or, rather, I was coming from one love and rebounding into the thin, synthetic air of another. I crammed myself in to the too-small Delta Connections plane and slipped into the blue, leather seat next to a woman whose heft preceded her. Her thigh spilled out from beneath the armrest, the khaki fabric dimpled and taut, and her arm wrapped around her great stomach. She was trying to hide the fact that seatbelt barely fit, that its gray, nylon straps cut into her. I watched this woman intently, rifling around in my bag for a Xanax, and when she saw that I was watching her, she smiled.

Over the intercom, the pilot announced he would be flying fast to a rainy Atlanta, and soon we taxied. We traveled in slow, effortless circles on the tarmac and my seatmate’s arm pressed into mine. She did not move in the face of this new intimacy, but instead cradled a mystery novel between her bedazzled fingernails, stopping every once in a while to turn a page. I suddenly loved her, this stranger sitting next to me. She was my mother, my lover, my most intimate friend. She held me and my unnamable fears as though we were nothing, resting on the back of her arm. She carried us backwards through grayness and into the fast approaching day.

Perhaps she was used to this touching of strangers, her body so full that it brushed against bodies when she did little more than turn her head, but it was almost religious for me. I am (or was) terrified of touching, which is a product of my fervor for antiseptic cleanliness and the conviction that my body’s mass outsizes itself. In the four days I had spent in Florida, not once was I able to get as close to the boy I loved as I was to this woman. I shuddered at his attempts to hold my hand and left with the knot of knowledge that I couldn’t do it, that perhaps I had ruined things because of the horror that accompanies my bends of skin and fat and muscle. But the woman sitting next to me carried my aching body on her arm, and I was not afraid. I loved her, and I surrendered.

The love affair was brief. Once we were airborne, my seatmate moved her hefty triceps. She shut her Grisham novel to rest her lovely brown eyes, and cradled herself in her thickly lined neck, which looked like baker’s slices in an unfired loaf of bread; I wished I too could rest in that pillowy flesh. I shook my pills like maracas. I reassured myself that I had some sort of relief at hand, and read and re-read the safety manuals, but found no satisfying advice. I looked over at the woman and held on to my own knees for safety.


Jane Blakeley is a student at the University of Kansas, continually questioning the validity of a degree in psychology.

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