The Passenger


There were a thousand ways to Bangkok. Luke and I bought our one-way ticket out of Kuala Lumpur. The flight was less than an hour, but a storm was raging over the South China Sea. The plane trembled and pitched. The forty or so passengers onboard were quiet. All we heard was the low hum of the engine and the crackle of rain against the windows. Luke sat beside me immersed in his book, his long legs stretching into the aisle. I continued to stare out the window.

Flying always felt like cheating. There was nothing earned. It was empty—a movement without sensation. Flying was the act of being taken, singular in its purpose. It was an eventuality. Eventually, you or the plane would be taken to its destination. I suppose there was a kind of beauty in its simplicity, but I rather enjoyed the journey than the destination. We drifted, Luke and I, traveling for years without destination or reason. He was the driver and I was the passenger. I sat to the right of him—windows rolled down, the world going by in a blur of dreamlike sketches. But there was nothing dreamlike about this flight. There was no possibility of flight.

Lightning flashed like a photograph in the distance casting a momentary reflection in the window. I looked away and turned to Luke. His golden-blond hair was falling into his eyes. He took hold of my hand and brought it to his face. He needed a shave, his skin felt abrasive. He held my fingers to his lips; his eyes still focused on his book. He kissed the front, then the back, of my hand. I turned my attention back to the window.

It seemed like midnight but it was barely noon. I closed my eyes, my temple resting against the cold panel. A bell chimed. The plane leveled and the seat belt sign was momentarily turned off. I loosened the strap around my waist, breathed in the stale, recycled air, shifting uncomfortably in my seat. A flight attendant walked down the aisle passing out yellow cards to the passengers. Luke handed me a form. The first line was written in Thai. At least, I assumed it was Thai. The second line was in English. It read: Customs.

Luke opened his passport, flipping through the pages, savoring each stamp and visa. I stared at a woman sitting across from us helping her young son fill out the form. I began to lightly tap the pencil against my lips until I noticed the monotony of my movement.

I took my time answering the questions: American, Female, Single, Twenty-Seven, No children. I flipped the card over, focusing on the storm, watching as the plane disappeared into a cloud of ashen-white.

The seatbelt sign turned on. Luke squeezed my hand. I closed my eyes, wanting it all to be over. He leaned in, his lips just touching my cheek. “You know this plane is probably going to crash,” he whispered. I opened my eyes. He was grinning. “And you’re probably not even pregnant.”  

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