you know my friend Crying? always helps me out to remember to include brand names and titles
Thursday, December 1st, 2016
I am typing this from my parents’ house in Round Rock, Texas. I want to write about my mostly non-verbal interaction with a plastic surgeon and his wife on my second flight — Dallas to Austin — when coming back to stay with my parents for a while after spending a night in suicidal despair.
I was the last one to board the plane. Southwest has open seating, so I walked along until I came close to the back. A man and a woman sat with a seat between them, and I asked if I could take that seat, as there were no more available that were not between two other people. They assented, and I turned around to put my backpack in the compartment above the seats across the aisle, extracting a new-to-me hardback copy of I Am a Strange Loop by Douglas Hofstadter.
When I turned back around, the woman was scooting toward the middle seat, and I was briefly confused. I started to move past the man, who had stepped out of his seat to allow me in.
The woman had already moved her large Coach purse to the space underneath the middle seat. At first, I still thought she nonetheless intended for me to take that seat, and it seemed uncomfortable and inconvenient to have someone else’s bag by my feet.
“I’ll let you have the window seat,” she told me.
“Huh?” I said. OK, it was a long moment of confusion.
“The window seat. I’ll let you have it.”
I went to the window seat and plopped down. I didn’t take off my outer denim jacket, hoodie, nor the jacket underneath those. I finished reading “Sex and Death in the Rational World of Defense Intellectuals” by Carol Cohn on my iPod touch, having placed I Am a Strange Loop in the seatback pocket in front of me.
I only noticed that the man and the woman were wife and husband when she laid her head on his shoulder and dozed. I looked at what the husband was reading. It was an issue of a medical journal. I saw cartoon-like illustrations of plastic surgery techniques — tummy tucks and breast reshaping, if I recall correctly.
After I got a club soda from the flight attendants, I put in my earbuds and started to listen to the track “FML” by Kanye West, from the album The Life of Pablo. I gave up on reading I Am a Strange Loop — it was too complicated for me to focus on while so seriously sleep deprived. I did eventually flip through the trippy, full-color pictures in the middle of that edition of the book.
I was listening to the music at a high volume and looking out the window. There was an electrical storm very high up in far-distant clouds. It lit up orange faintly. I was focusing on the idea that the lightening was likely not visible from the ground.
Something caught my attention — the flight attendant wanted my cup of ice to throw away. I realized what was required of me, and I passed the cup across the wife’s lap to the hand of the attendant, dropping the plastic knife on her legs, near her crotch.
“Sorry,” I said, quite likely too loudly, as I had still not taken out the earbuds.
The woman didn’t remove the plastic knife, and I wasn’t about to reach for it myself. The flight attendant laughed gently.
I began crying to myself. I was carrying a pink handkerchief in my back left pants pocket. I got it out to dry my eyes and blow my nose.
I had already felt excluded — that my basic humanity, my coexistence on that flight, was an imposition to this loving couple. But the act of laying her head on her husband’s shoulder — an act, I assumed, that she wished to participate in whether a third wheel sat in their row or not — seemed to belie the idea that I had imposed.
I also judged the surgeon. He is rich, and I am broke. He cuts open breasts and bellies for money. I felt as though my soul had been cut by the rich.
I got off the plane without ever taking out my earbuds. I was still carrying I Am a Strange Loop in my hands. I wandered for a bit before I found the correct luggage turnstile, avoiding getting too close to any people who might’ve been looking at the flat screen which had the information I needed.
I saw the surgeon in front of me, and he opened his mouth to speak to me. I took out my earbuds. His wife was not with him.
“What book are you reading?”
“Oh! I Am a Strange Loop by Douglas Hofstadter. He wrote Gödel, Escher, Bach in the seventies, or something.”
“Is it a good book?”
“I’ve read it before, so, yeah, I like it.” I may or may not have betrayed offense at the implication that I would ever carry around a not-good book.
“Wow! So, a really good book, then.”
I laughed, noticing yet another difference between us: I often re-read books.
Maybe I said goodbye to him, and maybe I didn’t. I grabbed my Ikea suitcase from the turnstile and left the baggage claim area.
I found my parents’ BMW very quickly. I got in their car and left the airport.