Reading time: 4 minutes
Prompt: On a long, overseas flight, the person in the seat beside you falls asleep on your shoulder causing you to fantasize …
She’s the first woman I have ever imagined holding like a lover, and yet, she is a stranger. I’m fantasizing and my mind is filled with the strange intimacies of being so near to someone so unknown.
We are 4 hours into an 11 hour flight and she’s been asleep for the last hour or so, hands in her lap, slowly slumping in her seat. She isn’t snoring which is nice, but she is so lovely, I’d surely forgive her if she did. We exchanged pleasantries as we found our seats, having already smiled at each other and made eye contact while waiting at our gate. We had shared commiserating smiles the last two times that our flight was delayed and now we are well into the journey, the cabin is dimmed and it seems like everyone can sleep but me.
And what do we do when we can’t sleep? We write.
It’s impossible not to be hyper-focused on the person you sit next to on a plane. They’re just so near, so present. Every time you sit down beside a stranger on a plane, as you hurtle through space with them, you are sharing a very singular and specific experience. Most times it makes your assigned seat feel like a temporary prison: stranded, talking about the weather, awkwardly standing up and crossing in front of the other. But this time feels different. This time I don’t feel like a prisoner, I feel curious and shy, flummoxed by how near she is and how she breathes as she sleeps. Can sleep sounds be musical? Hers are. For some inexplicable reason when our eyes met before our flight, something clicked. It was very much what we are led to believe love at first sight must feel like: surreal and thrilling, but frighteningly vague. This is a first, and not only because she’s another woman. Love has not come easily or often, for me in my lifetime, but some small ember inside me is feeling something like it.
Finished my drink and was thinking: Love is probably an exaggeration. After all I’m two martinis in, I’ve been awake for 20 hours, and just after dawn our plane will land and she and I will walk in opposite directions and this will someday be nothing more than a sad story to tell. She’s a perfect stranger and it would be naive to believe she is the love of my life. She shifted slightly in her sleep and her temple is against my shoulder now. I don’t dare move for fear of waking her, but if she opens her eyes she will read everything I’m typing. I’m feeling tired and reckless and I know I’m rambling – why did I even begin writing this down? I suppose because I want to capture this feeling so I don’t forget it, regardless of whether it’s fuelled by the martinis or the time zones or her. All I know is that I feel … besotted, in a way that I have never felt and have only heard of. I truly don’t want to disturb her sleep but selfishly I don’t want to disturb her and have her apologize and turn away to fall asleep again facing the aisle. Instead, I will sit as still as I can, typing only with my fingers, imagining how it would feel to wrap myself around her, how the heel of my hand might fit in the groove of her back. I can imagine dancing with her, holding hands, a million and one strange intimacies that slide through my mind quickly like shuffled cards, gone as fast as they arrived. This is silly. I need to sleep.
Do you let your mind wander to fantasies when it comes to attractive strangers? Leave your comments below!
This post is part of January Jumpstart 2023, a community writing project designed to help you get a jumpstart on a new year of writing. Want to join in or get more info?