(originally posted 11/28/2015)
So it was off to Texas.
Austin to be specific.
I walked onto the plane and tried to count the soul patches. I lost count at seven.
I took my window seat and the drama began. Perhaps drama is too strong a word given that similar dramas were not doubt playing out on every inch of soil beneath us as we made our way to Texas, but it was much closer to drama than a casual conversation.
At least to the trained ears of a grizzled writer of fiction.
Take one mildly attractive man and one wildly attractive female and sit them next to each other for four hours and you have all the elements necessary to make the perusing of the in-flight magazine entirely unnecessary.
Before my ears had even popped it had become interesting. Peeking between the little crack between the seats I could make out his face, and on that face a look I recognized immediately. A face I have often worn myself.
He yearned for her.
I discreetly reached up and turned off the hissing of the air nozzle over my head so I could better make out what they were saying.
He began. “I don’t know why but I can never stop myself from clapping during that part in the Friends theme song. It’s embarrassing. Doesn’t matter where I am … I clap. My friends think I’m so uncool but what can I do?” As if to show his helplessness he quietly whipped off the five little claps.
“Ironic if you think about it. The show is Friends and yet the theme song causes friction between me and my … friends.” His voice indicated that this is not where he had planned to go with this little story. It occurred to me that as an opening salvo it wasn’t bad though. It showed vulnerability and that he had a sense of humor about himself. But now it was in danger of heading south.
“I swear, if I heard that song at a funeral I would clap.”
I saw her head turn ever so slightly and heard her speak for the first time. What a voice she had. If my tray table had been down at the time it wouldn’t have stayed that was for long. What I’m trying to say is that her voice made my tray table in the upright and locked position.
“Why would the Friends theme song be playing at a funeral?” she inquired.
I saw his seat push back and it became obvious she had really stumped him.
I took a look out the little window to my right and saw the setting sun. All round and orange and it occurred to me that this giant ball of plasma didn’t give a crap how this conversation turned out. Given that the sun is about 99.9% of the mass of the solar system I felt my own interest in the proceedings wane a little bit. Who was I to argue with 99.9% of the mass of the solar system?
Then he spoke again and all the helium in the universe couldn’t stop my attention from swinging back to the two people seated directly in front of me.
“I bet men tell you all the time that you’re beautiful” he offered.
There was a slight pause. The words hung in the air and I leaned forward ever so slightly to see what her reaction would be.
“I’m a lesbian.”
I did not see that coming. I’m guess the mildly attractive man was even more taken aback.
I heard five little claps and somewhere in the back of my head a small ripple of laughter went through a non-existent studio audience.
He continued as if he had not heard her bit of news.
“Maybe when one of the cast of Friends dies they will play the theme song at their funeral.”
The sun set at almost that exact second as if giving a derisive snort and a fifteen million degree told-you-so. That assumes that you’re partial to the unit of measure suggested by William Lord Kelvin as opposed to the more mainstream Fahrenheit. Actually, as if making some obscure point I’ve yet to figure out, the kelvin is actually not referred to as a degree as much as a unit of temperature measurement.
If you feel like the kelvin has a little bit of an attitude problem you’re not wrong.
Much like the girl sitting in front of me.
As I listened to the man continue his pitch for her I began to resent her lesbianism. It was ruining what could have been a perfectly romantic moment.
“So you’ve never been with a man?”
“So how do you know you wouldn’t enjoy it?”
She asked if he’d ever been with a man.
The plane lurched violently to and fro with the motion of his head.
You could tell he had reached a crossroads. Still an hour in the air sitting next to what he obviously considered to be his sexual destiny and he was no closer to the mile-high club than when we left the tarmac in Philadelphia.
By now the moon was out and as I soaked it in, 33,000 feet closer than usual, I realized that while the attraction going on only a few feet in front of me seemed powerful it paled in comparison to the pull the sun had over the moon. Hanging in the sky and shining like it did it was easy to forget that it owed everything to the sun and its every movement was determined by it.
I hummed the Friends theme and felt a quick pang of sadness that the moon didn’t have the requisite hands to clap along.
The girl in front of me was pointing out again to the mildly attractive man that she was a lesbian and therefore immune to his charms. I wasn’t sure about her plans for the evening, but the only thing in the universe I knew for certain was that the man in front of me would be spending the evening alone in a hotel room. Dreaming of heavenly bodies and wrestling once again, knowingly or otherwise, with whether he’d rather be the sun or the moon.
Or was that what I was going to be doing?
No one could ever know me
No one could ever see me
Seems you’re the only one who knows what it’s like to be me
Someone to face the day with, make it through all the rest with
Someone I’ll always laugh with
Even at my worst, I’m best with you