The Trouble with Flying

By: Rachel Morgan

I take another peek. He certainly doesn’t look comfortable. Wiggling, tapping his fingers on the armrests, his knees bouncing up and down.

“It’s my first time,” he says, looking over at me before I can look away. “In a plane, I mean. Never flown anywhere before. So, yeah. A little nervous.”

“Your first time flying?” I repeat. I’ve just broken my own rule—don’t perpetuate conversation with strangers if you can help it—but I’m so surprised he’s never flown anywhere before that I guess the words just popped out.

“Yeah. Strange, I know. Twenty-three years on this planet and I’ve never left the ground. Well, there was that giant swing at Adrenalin Quarry—” his fingers drum the armrests repeatedly “—but I guess that doesn’t count since the swing itself was still attached to the ground. Certainly felt like flying, though, and flying isn’t something I’ve ever been keen on doing.”

He takes a deep breath while I try to figure out if I should tell him that flying in a plane doesn’t really feel like actual flying—not the way whooshing through the air on a high swing feels—or if I should make an excuse to get back to the safety of my book.

“I’m sorry, I don’t usually ramble on like this,” he continues. “Must be the nerves. I’m still not entirely convinced this giant metal contraption is going to stay up in the air.” He lets out a nervous laugh.

I need to pick up my book and put some headphones on before I say something monumentally stupid. Like last week on the Tube when the foreign guy sitting next to me asked, ‘Is that the new Stephen King?’ I showed him the bright pink cover of my book and said, ‘No, it’s a Melissa Carly novel. She’s a romance writer,’ and wondered where on earth he’d got the idea it might be by Stephen King. How was I supposed to know the guy was actually referring to a flier on the seat beside me advertising an album by some rock star named Stevie Keene?

So embarrassing.

Anyway, not only is First-Time-Flying Guy cute, but he has the kind of British accent that makes me feel all swoony. And swoony feelings only aid in sending my conversation skills into freeze mode. So I find it rather surprising when my mouth opens and coherent words come out of it: “There must have been a really good reason for you to get on this plane, then.”

“Family reunion  ,” he says. “I was forced.”

I smile in response. It would probably be polite of me to ask him something about his family reunion  . Something like … like … Okay, conversation centre is shutting down. And it’s not like he asked me a question, so I don’t have to respond, do I? I can safely return to my book. I look down at my lap, then think of one thing I could say. One thing I should say, even though I don’t want to. I look over at him. “Um, since it’s your first time flying, do you want to sit by the window?”

“No!” he says a little too quickly. “I mean, no, thank you. I’m fine right here. I, um, don’t need to see how high we’ll be going.”

“Oh, it’s really not so bad. Once we get up there, we’ll be so high you can’t even see the ground properly.”

He blinks. He stares at me with gorgeous blue-green eyes that say, You are so not helping.

“And, um, it’s night time anyway, so you won’t be able to see the ground at all. Just the lights.”

More staring.

Crap. I’m so bad at this.

With my face burning, I look down, pretending to be fascinated by a small hole in the fabric of my seat. I think I can pretty much guarantee First-Time-Flying Guy won’t be speaking to me again. I run my finger over the hole, then shake my head and turn back to my book. I find my place on the page and try to get back into the story. The main character has finally realised she’s in love with the guy she grew up next door to, but she’s convinced, of course, that he’ll only ever see her as a friend. She’s in the process of planning a makeover for herself in the hopes of getting him to notice her. I’m predicting it’ll somehow backfire.

Despite the fact that it’s hardly an award-winning novel, I find myself sucked into the cheesy story. The rumbling of the aeroplane’s engine helps to lull me into that faraway book world I lose myself in so often, and I’m barely aware of the overhead compartments slamming shut and the flight attendants doing their seatbelt and in-case-of-emergency demonstrations. I’m pulled back to the present when, with a small lurch, the plane begins moving.

“Please say something,” First-Time-Flying Guy blurts out.

Startled, the only word that pops out of my mouth is “What?” I lower my book and look at him, but he’s staring straight ahead, his fingers tapping a speedy rhythm on the armrests.

“Talk. Anything. Distract me.”

“Um …” Talk? Seriously? He might as well ask me to fly the plane myself.

At that moment, I become aware of the fact that the seat right next to me is empty. And since the plane is about to take off, I’m guessing it’s going to stay that way for this flight. THANK YOU! Except … now there’s no buffer between me and the guy who seems intent on making me talk. Hmm. I really need to be more specific with my prayers.