Red Coffee Black Wine (tenative title)
He was hardly aware of tasting the coffee as he raised and lowered the cup from his mouth. There were people out on the runway, or airplane parking lot, or whatever the hell that space where the plane loads at the gate is called. Closer to home, men were running back and forth in the hallway, a few women were making an attempt to pull their toddlers along, and some people in pairs were talking about nothing. He smiled aloud, and was glad to be himself, sitting where he was. Closer still was a New York Times lying on the tiny circular faux-artistic table that sat before him, oppressed by the weight of his glasses, and looking indignant that it was not being read. He frowned slightly as he looked at it, wondering what stories could be begging his attention, or what words could be waiting to make him lose his mind.
Things had been odd lately.
He wanted to close his eyes; to meditate, and find something – anything – there. But he couldn’t now. He looked down at his wrist and saw that it was ten to twelve, which meant nine minutes until they boarded.
Getting up, he nudged the table and the coffee cup overreacted, falling to the ground and crashing in front of everyone as if to say, “Look! He ignored me!” He perceived an anger at the coffee cup, and its betrayal – and felt silly.
The shop manager had already traveled over by the time he’d knelt down to pick up the pieces, and stood and watched as he did so. Having finished, he handed the pieces to him, too ashamed to look into his face; he saw that standing still behind the counter, the manager’s wife was scolding him harshly and in vain, not knowing he spoke only English. That didn’t seem to change much.
He merged into the hallway, allowing himself to be absorbed into the stream of men. It occurred to him that he was the only black suit, while all else were brown, and wondered if they’d notice.
Arriving at the gate, he got in line, pulled out his ticket, walked forward, stopped, walked forward, gave her the ticket, and had a nice flight, sir. A crowd in the aisles, he was forced to wait to find his seat, standing and facing a collection of visages awkwardly, and it reminded him of when he was in a museum and didn’t want to stop and read the captions but felt he would look silly if he didn’t. He didn’t read the faces, and looked upon them as rarely as he could manage, though there was always that strange pull to glance in the direction he knew he didn’t want to. Suddenly he felt naked.
Finally coming to his home in seat in 36B, he was pleased to find the likes of the person in the window seat. An older man, senior but still clearly active, was reading a news magazine actively. He was wearing a brown checkered suit, and his white beard framed the sort of round and stately face that makes someone look dignified. His skin was handsomely weathered in the way that makes people want to hear where his life has taken him. He liked him instantly, and felt sitting down as if he were with family.
Coming down the aisle was a ragged-looking woman with a baby in her arms. Her brown shawl, slightly torn, clashed with the hair pulled back and flying out in wisps. She looked as if she belonged in 19th century England as a peasant more than she did boarding a flight. She neared, past him, reappeared, put her luggage down, and put herself down in the aisle seat.
He suddenly felt uneasy, and more lonely than he had sitting next to the British man alone. He leaned his head back on the seat, just uncomfortable enough to notice, put his hands before him in a balanced sort of way, and tried to clear his mind. He thought about the slighting pain in his neck, the way his hands felt together, if there was tension in his legs, loosened those muscles, thought about himself existing in his stomach, not his head. He did feel better, but felt a little silly when he thought about people noticing. He opened his eyes and turned to his right, finding the British man still reading the magazine, with the same angle to his head before. He turned to his left, and almost yelled aloud when he saw a pair of piercing eyes matching his only a couple inches away. “Yeesh!” she said in criticism, and turned back to her baby in her arms. He stared at her for a couple more seconds, hardly aware of it, and was glad she hadn’t noticed and returned by the time he woke from the trance. What the fuck did “Yeesh!” mean.
The doors were closing. The plane began to reverse out of its parking space. The attendants began their safety ritual. It reminded him of watching teenage lifeguards proudly instructing their friends our parents on how not-to-die in some obscure, forlorn Midwest hometown. The town was probably a small blemish on the landscape, somewhere on a raising hill but with enough relentless horizon to one side that they couldn’t get unrealistically hopeful. Flight attendants, please take your seats. The houses would be lined up in the curved streets, each identical with its own imperfections, the families composed of the same members and different people. Children would run into the street in their bathing suits to the fire hydrants when it got hot, and their parents would shoo them back onto the curb when they noticed, criticizing them for forgetting how not-to-die. The beverage cart will be coming down the aisle shortly. Then they’d leave in their matching sedans, all the sole indicators of various affluence, and file down the same road to the heart of the town for work. Grandparents would be at home, giving the children their favorite foods and letting them watch TV and play in the streets, and when the parents noticed they would criticize them for not knowing how to live.
He opened his eyes and saw that the airplane had already lifted from the ground. They were pushing away as if gravity had reversed into a push, and an elastic band reached between them and London. He felt proud at having meditated so soundly, so well, and wondered if anyone had noticed.
The British man to the left of him had finished listening to his magazine and had respectfully set it in his lap, his hands weighting down the unnatural curve in it in a way that demonstrated authority but still respect. His attentions were outside, amongst the clouds or ground, or probably neither, but lost in thought. Perhaps he was missing his wife back in London and thinking of that reuniting, or maybe his children and grandchildren. Perhaps he was headed to London not for pleasure, but business – something exciting and respectable and affluent, like a chief investigator or a professor at Cambridge or an ambassador. That was more likely the case.
He realized he was bored already, and felt childish. He calmed a foot he had found tapping impatiently. Reaching into the pouch in the seat in front of them, he found a SkyMall magazine, an in-flight magazine, and some hybrid of a coupon and an advertisement that had fallen loose. He wished vaguely that there had been something outside of airplane material, but chose the in-flight magazine, knowing it was better than nothing. Leafing through casually, a beverage list, description of in-flight movies…Where the Heart Is was playing on east-bound, and he wished he were heading to India instead…a crossword. Out of his pocket came a blue ball point pen, he turned the tip, and folded back the right-hand half of the magazine. The real Ricardo. Arnez. Origin of the Christmas tree. Pagan. The Wizard of Oz mantra. He paused, his pen hovering over the clue to 4 across. It’d been a long time since he’d seen that…he couldn’t remember seeing it, actually.
“There’s no place like home.” A little startled, he raised his eyes to the British man, and found that he was still looking outside. He must have looked down and turned back in the time that it took him to look up in response…
Feeling suddenly tired, he pushed with his thumb a stubborn silver button, pressed back, and tried to believe that this position was more comfortable. Arms crossed, mouth open, it didn’t take long to fall asleep.
Oooohkaay, there's nearly 1500 words. *drowns*
None of that has been edited or rewritten or very carefully thought out, and it took me all of about two hours between last night and tonight. So don't be too critical. lol :)
I feel horrible. Absolutely horrible about what I'm doing. Know why? Because I have repeated imagery and ideas and words and archetypes and and in there. "Home" and "notice" and "ignore" and lotsa stuff rear their ugly head multiple times. Ugly because I have no idea what it means. hkifsldhfl. I want to know, and do something purposefully, because otherwise the reader is sitting there trying to decode the genius and I'm watching guiltily saying to myself...it's not there, actually. There are no conscious connections to make to my knowledge and I find it deceitful.
In another light, the first half or so reminds me of that little excerpt I did a while ago...like.....alotalot. Makes me wonder if my mind is trying to show me something.