Riding High

It wasn’t quite the intention of Martian Planet when he dropped his head in disappointment realising the trip wasn’t quite turning out to be his desired experienced. He was thinking back to his idea of returning to New York–it wasn’t fun at all. He had been away for all of a month and had become ecstatic with the thought of returning home–it was just that long boring flight.

The man’s actions, three aisles ahead, was nothing like the delightful site of watching the woman in the neighbouring seat writing her journal.  The model-looking woman looked up at him more than a few times with a flirtatious promise of responding to his invite if he had the courage to engage.

“Whheeeee”. He heard in front of him as involuntary thoughts travelled through his busy mind. A young woman in the adjacent aisle seat ahead strapped herself into the seat and pressed her headphones into her head in an attempt to ignore the odd fruckus in front almost as though the first straw was the last straw in her electric existence.

“Whheeeheeee”. The person shouted again. This time the passengers in front actually turned their whole bodies around to see the catalyst of the unusual adult behaviour. The three times before Martian noticed passengers scratching their ear or reaching for something on the side of their seat just to get a conservative glimpse from the corner of their eyes.

They all wanted to satisfy their curiosity and assess the danger so they could know whether they had boarded the wrong flight. I guess–thanks to Hollywood–that’s the unspoken thought that lives in the minds of most travelers although the statistics stack well in their favour. It’s something about the inescapable destiny and the ability for an unfamiliar crew to hold lives in their hands. Most would feel much more comfortable holding the wheel if there is such a thing in that complicated capsule but still that surrender of power is frightfully humbling, to say the least.

The short dark-skinned man’s eyes were opened wide, his face had not a remote resemblance to the expression that should accompany the sounds that were coming from his mouth. His hand trembled as he gripped his seat. Even the lady who was sitting next to him had long gone, she made sure that she found a space as far from him as possible at the front end of the rather empty plane. He was huddled in his chair and looking incredibly worried which naturally worried everybody else. Nobody dared to say a thing.

Twenty minutes had gone by, as his outbursts curtailed, the passengers returned to their activities. Martian couldn’t quite see the fidgety character properly which kept his mind even busier. Eventually, the mystery had become too much for him, even though the man had stopped, he didn’t feel safe at all. Anywhere else it would be fine but being five miles high in the air he was especially nervous.

‘Who is that buffoon he thought’. He stood up. He thought he’d use the toilet as an excuse to get a glimpse of the crazy man. As he stood up he caught the eye of a stewardess oblivious to the little commotion. “You okay sir”. She said with an accommodating voice and partnered with a smile and the traditional, leaning head.

“Toilet”. He said, passing her, bowing his head and pointing with his eyes and the top of his wrist.

“Yes sir, straight ahead and there’s one behind you too. It’s a lot closer”. She said in the tone of a question awaiting a response. He smiled and carried on moving forward gripping the chair as he straightened his body again having passed her.

As his body twisted he felt a genuine urge to use the toilet. He immediately remembered that he had eaten the Kit Kat after the TV dinner courtesy of Air India. In a rush to get that desert, sugar substitute, he had unconsciously consumed gluten.

It’s truly interesting how fear can transform into new areas in just seconds and how your body can give you a lesson in priorities in a flicker.  At that moment he didn’t care to entertain the idea of a potentially dangerous person on a plane anymore as if it was a choice. He just knew that he wasn’t going to soil himself in the plane aisle, no matter who was doing what. All he hoped for was that the toilet was vacant. He didn’t even look back at the man as he rushed past.

He felt a bit of air move from his chest down into his stomach; it hurt. He could have relieved it a little by letting out a quark of gas but there was no telling what flavour it might be. Maybe it was summer butterfly air but then again it could be Celiac sausage and egg. With the possibility of the latter, he thought it better to suffer in silence. He felt like one of those potbellied weightlifters as he held his stomach in while trying to look calm moving up the aisle. In his mind he was running he had already lifted the seat and thrown a towel at the bottom of the door. He already knew that he’d stay in there until the smell had completely elapsed no matter how long it took.

The toilet was free and didn’t smell like a toilet at all. It had the smell of pine and lemongrass circling at every swish of his arms as though it was being inexhaustibly pumped through a vent into the little room of sin. It all fell out of him. This kind of plastic potty wasn’t meant for heavy-duty fire. He started to think about his spastic colon and how he had returned on his last trip to a putrified smelling toilet. He had used the toilet before he’d left and the smell was suspended there until his return. It shocked him but the doctor had told him that this was a symptom and he had no windows in his tiny toilet.

Outside, the passenger assigned the seat next to the screaming man was back.

The stewardess had asked her to return for the airline’s record keeping. She didn’t argue or even make a point since the man was no longer making any noise. Passengers were still trying to look back at every chance to see if she was safe next to him but he seemed sedated. A few men were looking pretty heroic as if their faces were saying ‘you’d better know self-defense’. Nonesuch was the thoughts of Martian. He just wanted to get to his seat without letting the farm smell permeate the plan –it was wretched and so obviously him.

As he walked through the plane aisle the smell followed him right through. He thought he could turn left on the way back rather than to the right and get to his seat via the left aisle, where fewer people had seen him walk. But the waft followed him like a rucksack on his back. He could see noses breathing in, to witness whether or not their senses were truly experiencing such a hellish odor, then immediately regretting it using sleeves, cushions even the back of the seat as a temporary mask. It was awful, one man started to cough and couldn’t stop, another kid used his sibling’s neck to cover his nose.

Martian had to act as though it wasn’t him when it could only have been him. Those that didn’t see him leave the toilet could see the seat that he hadn’t been in for the last ten minutes as the smell spread, greeting them as he walked like they were a double act. Embarrassed was not the word. The only people on the plane that didn’t know it was his insides were those beyond the front of the toilet but they could certainly smell it.

After a little more fussing, a stewardess put a rope across the bottom of the first-class stairs and closed the door. The smell worked as an endorsement for first-class and reason to never fly economy. It was a plus for the Airline.

The disturbed man was no longer in his seat. He was up and standing by the door on the left side of the plane and looking at the handle. It drew a few of the passengers’ attention. He started to rock back and forth like he was about to do something. Martian didn’t even care, he wanted to die anyway.

 •

 

“What did you do in there, open up a whale’s belly”? Asked his pretty seatmate placing her book next to a packet of Kleenex on the armrest and smiling.

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“H..Ih, it was…”. Said Martian, without any real English words.

“No, I’m kidding. I’m a coeliac too, you a coeliac”?

“For real, so you know, oh my god, how”? She tilted her head smiling pompously like she’d won a prize for guessing. He put his head in his hands and shook it from side to side, thinking back. “You know, all I wanted to do was see who was making all that noise in front, the person screaming, causing a commotion. I just stood up and it all started happening.”

The model looking lady jumped in. “Yup, I get it–the chest pain then the big bubbles sudden rush from your chest into your belly, then your body changing from your servant to your master in a flash. Your body wanted to crap in the aisle, didn’t it? I’ve had some embarrassing moments too. I know what it feels like I really just wanted to hug you”.

“I wish you had so I could have just disappeared”. Said Martian

“Once, I actually… let’s say I let it all go on a Ferris Wheel. I was only seventeen-years-old but still, no less embarrassing, trust me. I lost friends that day, it was very real for me. I instantly got a reputation. I was in the chair, just like you and me here but it was with my best friend and of course, she told my other Uni friends.

“I’m sorry to hear.” Said the embarrassed man knowing now there was worse that could happen.

“Yeah, I needed councilling for about a year”. She smiled showing that she’d completely gotten over it”.

Martian screwed up his face with almost the opposite expression. He didn’t smile even though he wanted to. 

“So what’s your name stinky”? She said lightheartedly hoping to take some weight off the situation and fade out the graphic details of what she’d just said.

“Gene, friends call me Gin”. She said re-introducing herself.

Martian thought about what she was saying, he got stuck in his imagination for a moment. He imagined people being hit with flying faeces while they tried to enjoy their ride at the funfair. He imagined children crying and people trying to release the seat belts to get off even though their lives were at risk. He imagined her in a state, crying and holding her head in her hands.

“Well”?

“Oh… Martian”. He replied quickly, waking from his mind.

“Martian”?

“Yeah my last name’s worse:

“Martian Worse”?  She enquired.

“No, Planet, Martian Planet but you can call me Mart if you like”. He said waiting for the enhanced surprise.

When I was born my mother liked the name Martin, My dad, oh my dad,” He sighed shaking his head. “he was a bit of a joker, anyway, he didn’t like the name at all, he hated it, didn’t even know the meaning but hated it. So, at the registrar’s office, when it came to writing it out, on the birth certificate, he decided to change it a bit. He wanted to add an extra A  before the I, making it Martain but of course, he couldn’t write too well and here we are. I like it though, gets attention”.

“Woah. Yeah me too.”

“Well I have to, you don’t have to be nice.

“No seriously I do. It’s like a hobby of mine, Planets–Mars, things beyond the biosphere, even beyond the Kuiper Belt. I studied astronomy for years. That was my major–physics and biology, I wanted to be an astronaut”.

“Me too”. Said Martian surprised with his eyes widened almost forgetting about the whole experience.

“I mean, I kinda studied cosmology abroad, privately with a personal tutor”.

“Where, in America, you are a Brit right”? Said Gene equally as excited.”

“Yeah, I did and I am. Wow, you really are a female me. well erm… I mean … maybe not “. He said, feeling as though he’d jumped too far in his rushed conclusion as he often did.  Gene’s head sunk down slightly with a shy little smile on her face.

“What were you writing earlier”? Said Martian.

“When, she said, puzzled, “oh you mean, Soul Mates”? She said it looking dead in his eyes and grinning. It seemed as though she was trying to make him blush. “Says here”, she said picking up her journal, “when you meet somebody of the opposite sex that has a passion equal to yours about the same thing as you, from that point onwards, you can go forth together and create heaven. Creating together is like the dust of supernovas. The pure natural potential within each one can build a whole solar system. Once that design is in place you don’t even want to fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams. You find strength in knowing you have a true friend and possibly a soul mate who will remain loyal to the end. Life seems completely different, exciting and worthwhile. Your only hope and security is in knowing that they are a part of your life.” 

“Where’s that from”? Asked Martian, now totally forgetting the incident.

He was so locked into her space that he cared for nothing but keeping their communication flowing. It was as though they were placed there to become a unit. He was interested in everything last thing she said. He was saying the very same thing about that type of connection a week ago when talking with his life coach; she questioned his long endeavour to find the one. Then, he was comfortable having given up, he reasoned it out by accepting being totally absorbed with work, everything else felt like a distraction.

He suddenly started to question if God was messing with him as he tried to sober up from his momentary bliss. Her words suddenly had the reverse effect waking his conscious up. He returned back to then from now on the plane and quickly concluded that he was vulnerable due to the shameful events of the last hour. He thought it was quite obvious that anything calming would suffice considering the detachment he was feeling, this had to be an illusion, a mirage that looked like everything he wanted in a partner, a friend, teacher and a co-pilot all wrapped up in a 5’7 tiny, delicate frame. But he still wanted it to be more.

“I wrote it”. She paused looking at him again for a reaction. Nah, it was kinda me and Dr. Seuss and Bob, Bob Marley, I borrowed a little from him but I’m sure he won’t mind“.

Martian returned to the bliss, blinking and looking confused. “Dr. Seuss”. He said, looking puzzled with an exaggerated surprise, at the same time feeling as though he was simply playing a part in an aberration that he enjoyed entertaining. It seemed fake.

She felt the pretense in his voice and his detachment from the conversation. “Please don’t do that. I know I started the conversation but if I’m boring you just say it. I can call the stewardess for you to talk with instead”. She said with her brow furrowed waiting for his permission to terminate the talk. He suddenly realised he was about to blow the moment of alluring love into his life and maybe even his lifetime.

“No, no, no! It’s great, I was just wondering if this was real or not, you’re just the most interesting person I’ve met in a decade and I’m just not used to so much of my DNA coming out in a different body.  Please, please please, carry on”.

“This decade”. So there were other people, in the last fifteen years that had a greater impact on you than me”? She said shaking her head then revealing a beaming grin. She knew she had overreacted but she had to get her feelings confirmed without asking him and appearing too desperate.

Martian breathed out and listened for the next hour about how many things they had mutually enjoyed without ever knowing each other existed. It was like she had been taking notes of all the things he had done and liked and just gone ahead and tried them out waiting for that moment when they would finally meet and compare them. They learned that they had both watched the movie Good Will Hunting and found the acting incredible, putting it on their top five list. They had both seen De La Soul perform at the same venue, the Shoreline Amphitheatre, in San Francisco on the exact same day and they mutually hated elevators, Samolina, Mackeral and women that wore weaves.

“Yeah they’re so phony. If you cannot handle looking at your God-given mane then how much councilling do you need”? Said Martian sipping his sparkling water to bring down his temperature as the plane heated up.

“For real, and what’s up with tattoos? You don’t have one do you she said flirtingly pulling at the neck of his T-shirt.

“Oh, please. Ya know, if they weren’t so damn permanent, half of the tattooed world would a grown out of it by now but since it’s so forever, they’d rather lie about their choice”.

“Forever, Forever, forever, ever, forever, ever”?  Said Martian imitating OutKast’s song, Ms. Jackson, causing them both to burst out laughing. They were getting animated and had opened up, totally.

“Yeah, today, they’re about as revolutionary as drinking beer at a pub on a Friday”.  Said Gene.

“Exactly,” Martian agreed yet again, they got this boooring show in England, been running for years, called Coronation Street. I’m talking, fifty thousand different ways to rearrange the same local gossip–cheating, pregnant, gay dead, married, in prison and round again. Years, it’s been running, yeeears. It’s the type of show that your Grandma looks forward to watching after retirement. Half a the young characters got tattoos now”.

“Yeah? You notice how they’re creeping up onto the face now in a desperate attempt to be edgy again”? Said Gene.

They were both laughing in hysterics. A stewardess passing with a trolley stopped, came over and warned Martian to keep his voice down. She seemed upset that he was happy. Martian thought that she may have been offended by the joke. She stated her point without once looking at Gene, she said nothing to her as if she wasn’t even there.

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“Dyou think she has a tattoo”? whispered Gene causing Martian to bury his head deep into his skinny bicep to muffle his snorting as he tried to hold back the laughter.

The flight went incredibly fast, neither one of them wanted it to end, at the same time they were aware of how fast it was racing to end. Martian was a little afraid to ask for another date but on the terrain this time. He wondered if it would be different.

As the sun tagged the moon the scene in the fuselage illustrated the veiled connection that humans possess. They all uniformly compressed their heavy day tones into night whispers like children whose parents had told them it was bedtime. The two of them continued talking throughout the night and the conversation got deeper and deeper until Gene finally fell into the arms of exhaustion, leaning against Martian’s elbow as he fell blissfully into a coma knowing she felt safe near him.

 

 

The flight landed at JFK fifteen minutes early, which was always a nice surprise. Rather than having his people wait for him Martian could freshen up and prepare, having time to decide how he wanted to surprise them for a change.

As the two of them sailed down the escalator together, he brushed his hand against hers quite deliberately. He sensed the earlier connection had quickly grown to that point. He didn’t feel he had to wait until some time next year to make their obvious attraction a little more obvious, he wanted to do at least something to impress a mark upon her. As they were moving slowly towards the end she felt like a cat about to get spayed. The end of all possibilities was drawing close, no number, no address, just deep but peripheral information. She didn’t move her hand. He could sense hers move a fraction closer to his as they both said nothing pretending to stare at the oh so exciting check-out desk that had quite suddenly become visible ahead. He moved his little finger closer, it touched hers. Her finger gave his a gentle rub to hint it was safe to proceed. He couldn’t be as subtle as her so he left his shaky finger leaning against hers. She grabbed his hand. He squeezed hers back and they both held hands as they got in line.

 

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It felt different talking and facing her with her hand in his, it felt a little premature and embarrassing for both of them as they couldn’t quite justify it. What more could that evening unleash between the strangers that felt so familiar? He reached into his pocket to grab his card to safeguard the possibility of a future in case their separation was more sudden and unexpected, you can never know. Suddenly there were footsteps behind them. They both exaggerated the distraction and looked around used it as a pillow for their chagrin.

It was the fidgety man from the plane accompanied by two TSA agents holding his arms. He was handcuffed and looking even more nervous.

“Reach fu ma got daym gern, what in the woorld was you thinking son. You in big trouble now”? You never attack a United States officer… nor do you intimidate a United States Citizen. Added the other angry officer as he cut him mid-sentence as though they were both trying to figure out what had gotten into him. The man raised his head as it suddenly became clear to him how much trouble he was actually in.

The woman looked at him with an iced grill. She was obviously disgusted, her wrist was red as though it had been gripped in a violent struggle. Her skirt had scuff marks on it too. Her thick red hair was so tortuous she looked like Regan from the movie, The Exorcist, she even had little cuts on her forehead.

Surprised, he also noticed that it was the woman who’s hand he had been holding and he was no longer holding her hand, her smile had completely disappeared. He didn’t understand. This was the woman that he spoke to all through the flight, the one that gave him his confidence back. They had connected or so he thought. How in the blink of an eye could they be strangers?

He was shoved into the interrogation room in the Airport.

What have we got here?  Said the very senior looking TSA officer.

“He’s been trouble throughout the whole flight I’m told”. Said the pissed retiring officer as he slumped in the abused wooden chair as it spilled out some of its yellow foam.

“Firstly, this piece a shit destroyed the bathroom–stank up the whole plane. Then he was screaming all through the flight. He then attacks a passenger. Yeah, tried to pull her into the toilets. She’ll be in in a mihnite”. His drawn out words made Laguardia feel like an airport in Texas.

“You got a death wish or suppen son”? Said the officer pulling off his glasses and pushing a book to the side of the heavy wooden table.

“Nope, said the other agent, “I found these”. The officer pulled out a pair of shades with the left temple hanging off, the hinge was broken, it had been deliberately forced as if haste and lack of patience governed the action. Martian looked up at them and then looked down dejected while the officer revealed the clever but failed tiny drug compartment. It held about three inches of powdered high. They weren’t yet sure what it was but he knew that he was in trouble.

When I got there, would you believe this son of a bitch tried to grab for my gern”?

The words echoed the

Nobody could describe the surprise on Martian’s face nor could they feel the shock he felt when he finally realised that he was the sole character in both sides of his twisted reality–the victim and the aggressor.

It seemed odd that a simple fear of flying could cause a man to act in such a careless way. How the possibilty of a nightmare could be turned into a real nightmare then turn into bliss and back into a nightmare again in a matter of eight hours. Yet the choices we make can be so detrimental to tomorrow that it’s imperative for us to slow down and think about what we do, choosing ever so carefully today what will inevitably make our tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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