The moment I saw him, I knew he was Eastern European.
Without a word of greeting, he plonked down in his seat next to mine, unfolded a huge laptop, and glued himself to the screen. Luckily, he didn’t smell. (Kudos to the girlfriend.) I checked my seatbelt and looked out of the window. Pressing my head against the plastic panelling, I breathed goodbye to the bleached sandy terrain outside. I didn’t really want to leave.
A few minutes later, we were up in the air.
He looked at me directly. “Where are you flying from?”
I blinked several times before gathering my thoughts.
(Let me think. Could the airport we just took off from provide any clues?)
“Dubai” I answered, perhaps much too calmly.
“Oh! Right, right. So you have a direct flight. I’m flying from Bangkok.”
(A transfer! But who was to know?!)
I smiled with relief. “I was lucky to get a direct flight.”
“Yes, yes, so was I. Very lucky.”
(?!?! Never mind. Shouldn’t we be getting our wet towels?)
Wet towels were given out. Food trays arrived and were promptly cleared away.
He turned to me and asked me about the book I was reading.
“It must be very funny, you’re laughing a lot.”
(Guilty as charged.)
“It is. It’s easy reading.” I looked back at him and showed him the front cover. “It’s chick-lit,” I added, slightly embarrassed.
“Aha. What’s it called?” He got out a pen and pad and started jotting.
(No, no! What are you doing? Didn’t you hear?! It’s CHICK-LIT! It’s not for you! You’d hate it!)
“Cause Celeb, by Helen Fielding,” I obliged composedly. “She’s the one who wrote Bridget Jones’ Diary.” Strong accent on Bridget Jones’ Diary.
(If that didn’t ring any alarm bells, you’re doomed, my dear fellow.)
His interest didn’t ebb an inch.
“Aha. Great. Thanks a lot!” He finished jotting, and gave me a smile and a nod.
(Perhaps he really likes chick-lit!)
I sat bewildered. And then I got an idea. I refocused on the story – only twenty pages or so to go. Soon enough, the plane started descending.
He disappeared from my view in the baggage claim area, but I found him. He had gotten out a pea-green sweater and put it on over his checked orange shirt. I kept an eye on him as I waited for my suitcase to arrive, grabbed it, and walked over to him.
“Hi. I just finished the book, so I thought you might like to have it.”
(I don’t understand you. But I won’t judge. If you like chick-lit – to hell with it! Enjoy!)
“Oh, WOW!” His eyes doubled in size. “Thanks a lot! I wanted it for my wife.”
I chuckled at my own confusion. (Of course!) And all was well in the world again.