Dear passenger 19I
<<THIS MAY BE A FICTIONAL STORY>>
Dear passenger 19I,
I have been flying frequently and so often that a short ride in an aircraft no longer excites me. I can walk from departure hall through immigration barriers half drunk, and being assigned at the middle seat does not bother me as I can sleep soundly like a drugged toddler in a red eye flight… Until 5J806 from Singapore to Manila.
Middle seat. Who cares? I survived one from London to Singapore right next to a geriatric patient with dementia, what else could go worse? I was set to plug my earphones, indulge myself with (gulp) Justin Bieber and bid “Goodnight Felicia” to the world. But you came and smiled, gesturing me to stand up so you can settle at 19I.
I kinda figured that you are a frequent traveler too, because you filled up the arrival slip without looking at your passport and I judge people who can’t memorize their own ID details. You wrote yours like as if you are signing a restaurant bill, Impressive.
Cruising altitude. The lingering scent of Nissin cup noodles is ebbing with the thick air of anticipation, of OFW’s longing to reach home quick.
Nothing new. Until I accidentally brushed my elbows against your arm when I was desperately reaching for my pen under your legs. Seats were tight so I thought that was why you did not mind my arms rubbing against you. But moments later you did not retract and did not hint a sign of repulsion. So, I tried my sick chance and slowly but surreptitiously slid my elbow against your firm and smooth limb. Oh lord, like of alabaster sculpture chiseled by God Himself.
My chest started revving like an aircraft engine when you started leaning towards me and resting your head against mine.
So you’re an engineer, and those circuit diagrams that you pretend to be reading in your iPad gave me the hint that you are nervous on what’s happening too.
The pilot dimmed the cabin lights. I slowly but intentionally started dabbing my finger on your leg. I shoved my face in my hoodie to hide my embarrassment to the almost perverse act that I am committing. Trust me, I don’t do this often.
I trembled intensely close to a premature rigor mortis when you stowed the armrest between us. We completely blurred the boundary between seats 19H and 19I, between the two of us. Whoever you are, you let a stranger break the convenience of your privacy and we freaked-out the passenger at 19G with our sudden public display of affection.
You held my hand and you held it so tight, so I threw my inhibitions out the window, I squeezed your hand back like a starved python going for the kill.
It lasted for hours. We watched Naruto on your phone, you slept in my embrace, and our hands went somewhere that would qualify us to receive a VIP platinum membership to the infamous Mile High Club.
What is this? A seemingly coldhearted and naughty game of touch-the-stranger-next-to-you on a plane? Or more (in)appropriately, let’s-pretend-we-love-each-other-for-a-short-period-of-time because we’re bored?
I knew it was insane and screaming superficial — it’s a cheap thrill. But damn, I thrived in cheap thrills so I knew I could wing this. But when we started communicating by eye contacts and occasional pressing of fingers, while you teasingly smirk in my periphery, that’s when I felt something.
The pilot announced that we are landing in 30 minutes. You held me closer and tighter, you sighed so deep only letting go would logically follow. Everything is ending very soon.
I knew we were acting, or were we?
I felt it was a brewing story, a short film happening in real life. The unspoken agreement that no one should speak added a creative twist to this little Cebu Pacific Fun Game.
I want your voice to be a mystery: Is it like a humming ATR propeller that will soothe the corners of my soul? Or is it like a squeaking hydraulic transfer pump of an Airbus 318? I was glad that we kept that mystery intact because I want to long for it and make this the best and shortest love story of my life.
If one of us broke the string of silence, the whole story of this beautiful chance encounter will turn from a glorious Nicholas Sparks to a cheesy and predictable Joyce Bernal flick.
The romance and beauty of whatever this is, love or what not, is our ability to dictate the heart what is real and what is make-believe. It is not science, as no amount of endorphin synthesis and hormonal release cycles can put together the right words to explain that fuzzy feeling that burns inside me when you softly squeeze my hand and fill the spaces between my fingers.
These made me rethink my capability to love and reevaluate my judgment to delineate it from what shouldn’t be. Now, I can feel that pounding sensual excitement on cue, blush in the count of three, and be broken with an impending loss of what was not mine, when the needs arise.
Our story is bound between the corners of this leg of a transit, a small fraction of our lives and own little realities. Maybe you are happily married and have three kids, maybe you are a socially disabled suffering from severe cases of neurotic tendencies, or maybe you are a clingy loser stalking your ex in Singapore hence the trip. I would not know for sure, and I would not want to know. Our own short story is confined within this bubble of moment free from judgments and expectations.
We never knew our names, our real lives, perhaps we are not meant to, and so we never will.
That moment at the arrival hall of NAIA terminal 3 was the most beautiful picture of heartache that will bleed in my memory for a long time.
We stood immobile and your eyes are sadness.
Half a minute, I was not sure what we were waiting for.
A minute, I was dying to finally talk and break the silent streak.
Never looked back.