for someone to announce boarding while reading this book, or at
least looking at this book trying to appear as if you're reading,
when the man next to you leans over and asks, "What do you
You're not sure what he's referring
to and make a strange guttural sound.
He looks disappointed. You can tell his
entire life has been filled with these high expectations of others.
It's no wonder he's frustrated and constantly trying to engage strangers
in conversations, continuously hoping to have his expectations reached.
gives you one more chance. "I haven't read it," he says.
Ah. The book. What do you think of the
book? "It's alright. Collection of short stories. Like all
collections, some are better than others."
"Like wine," he says.
You nod your head, then decide to be
sociable. "You watch Sideways?"
He laughs. "Great movie. I had a
lot of fun with that one."
The ticket agent announces your flight
has been delayed. People moan. Some curse. The man asks if you'd
like to go to the lounge and get a drink.
Might as well. The book has become nothing
more than words filling pages. Word after word about people coming
and going, doing something, anything, and you're waiting for a plane
that may never materialize, surrounded by people you've been scrutinizing,
judging, conjuring up their life histories, their thoughts, you
even assume you know everything about this man from his one comment
about watching a movie. You make lame introductions while walking
to the lounge. You each wait for the other to order Pinot Noir,
and you think about ordering a gin and tonic just to be ordinary,
instead you point to the wine list and lift your eye in that silly
way, gesturing to the pinots, and he says,
"What the hell. Let's do it."
You imagine this conversation being in
a book and think about how only those who have watched the movie
would understand the connection to wine, and even those people wouldn't
particularly care what they ordered. Those readers would be like
you, wishing the damn story would move onward, do something. Who
cares how someone lifts an eyebrow?
"The entire theater seemed
to be filled with middle-aged people who were craving wine. We all
laughed at the same scenes. It was weird," he says. "It's
awkward describing myself as middle-aged. How did that happen?"
You become difficult and say nothing.
You decide he's weird. You're hard on everyone.
"If only we were at a vineyard,"
he says, providing you with conversational options.
You consider what he's said and try to
decide if you want to let it go unchallenged, or if you want to
play along with it. "Well," you say, then realize you
have nothing to say to that comment. You feel like a writer lost
in a story. "If we were two women, itd probably seem
more natural that we'd bring up a book one of us were reading, then
head to the lounge when our flight was delayed."
"You think?" he asks.
Rhetorical questions drive you crazy.
Instead of getting up and returning to your gate, you buy the next
round. You feel momentarily forgiving.
"I have a friend who loves
airports. He hangs out in places like this and writes. Always uses
a laptop. Think he tries to look as if he has an important job,
is always on call; maybe he hopes he looks like a writer. I don't
know. He tells me he gets inspired at airports and likes to go there
to write. He's a fiction writer. Never believe anything he says.
Always feel like he's testing his stories out on me."
"Who is he?"
"Doubt you've heard of him.
He hasn't published a book. His name's Sam Long."
He pauses a second then shakes his head
that he doesn't recognize the name.
"Well, he tells me he rarely
leaves the airport without meeting a woman, exchanging numbers.
He makes up endless lies at the airport, as if he's a fictional
character, then he can't bring the women to his apartment because
he's acting as if the airport is just a layover, not his hometown."
"Maybe he's more interested
in meeting women than writing stories."
You pause, and then ask, "Who isn't?"
You both laugh a minute.
"Guess we should see if there's
a plane waiting for us," he says.
"How long before that man
with his head buried in his laptop gets to bury his head in the
lap of a woman he meets at the airport today?" you ask.
"Lucky bastard. I should carry
a laptop instead of magazines."
"Yeah, but if it didn't work,
imagine how miserable you'd feel carrying that damn computer throughout
"Yeah," he says without
He runs off to the bathroom before boarding
and you stand in line somewhat surprised that two strangers of the
same sex are able to go to the lounge and bullshit. You board the
plane feeling slightly less cynical about life, yourself. It's a
strange feeling. Come on, admit it. It is a strange feeling, even