Holding Hands

When I was nineteen and in between my first and second years of college, I took my first and last trip to Las Vegas. I flew with my mom, dad, and sister. My dad was winning an award from his company and family members were invited to the ceremony. 

I had a separate flight home. This didn’t bother me; I’d been flying between my West Coast home and my Midwest university all year. I was a seasoned solo-flier.

I sat down between two middle-aged men, immediately striking up a friendly conversation with the one to my left. 

He was a Whirlpool salesman from L.A. He had a wife and a new baby. His face was greasy, his hair balding. I told him where I went to school and what I studied. I was chatty, as usual, and he seemed kind.

He asked if I’d hold his hand while the plane took off.

I laughed off his request, assuming it was a joke, at best, or a minor flirtation, at worst. But he persisted. He told me he got scared on flights, especially during takeoff.

What’s a little harmless hand-holding? I thought, as he entwined his hand in mine and the plane thrust into darkness.

The plane reached cruising altitude. Stewardesses roamed the aisles. And we were still holding hands, because I couldn’t figure out how not to. I tried to make eye contact with a passing stewardess, with the man seated to my right: Help me. Help me. I do not know this man and I do not want to be holding his hand and I do not know what to do.

I considered getting up to ask a stewardess for help, rather than sending telepathic signals of distress with my eyes. Could I get a new seat? Were there even empty seats on this flight? But what if I offended the man by moving away, and he came after me during my layover in San Francisco? What if I never make it home?

I was locked in thoughts that effectively kept me from doing something, anything. And that’s when he moved our entwined hands from the center divider to my right leg. I watched as he rubbed his outstretched index finger along my inner right thigh.

That was enough. Startled from paralysis, I pulled my hand away from his, grabbed a book from my purse, and spent the rest of the flight staring into it.

Twice the man poked me in the ribs with his elbow. I glanced in his direction, watching as he mouthed You’re cute.


Kristin Sanders is the author of the poetry chapbook Orthorexia (dancing girl press, 2011). She lives in New Orleans, where she teaches English at Loyola University and writes poetry and songs.

Category: Airplanes

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