Conor Cawley: Strangers On A Plane

His tray table rattled in front of him. His seat cushion wobbled back and forth. The left armrest of his middle seat was stuck in a slightly higher position than the right one. Everything about his situation was uncomfortable except for the beautiful girl that looked like she was about to sit down next to him.

His heart exploded with anticipation before she had even stepped on the plane. He saw her gracefully walking around at checkout but doubted he would be so lucky as to get to see her coy smile and jaunty stride again. She politely squeezed her carry-on bag between other passengers that had already taken their seats and the frayed ribbon tied to the handle of her bag bounced playfully like it was daring him to hope.

The ribbon was presumably to prevent her from confusing it with another bag, though he wondered how she could ever mistake that bag for another. It was bright purple with yellow trim and had attached to it some of the most unique pins that he had ever seen.

“Save the bass!” “Make love not PBJ sandwiches!” “Fight the power company!”

He thought she was perfect. But the odds of her sitting down next to him were astronomical, right? After all, this wasn’t a small, five-person plane; there were literally hundreds of seats she could sit in. His blood boiled a little thinking about the lucky guy or girl that got to spend the next four hours in close proximity to this angel.

He clung to both his armrests with his sweaty palms. His grip was so tight that his fingers slipped off the volume and channel buttons of the radio controls, considerably confusing the business gentleman seated in the window seat.

As he gleefully watched her glide down the aisle like a ghost that had just learned how to skateboard really slowly, he realized how wishfully he had been watching her and noticed her watching back. The awkwardness set in.

He couldn’t find a comfortable position between the uneven arm rests and fidgeted in his seat. Not the kind of fidgeting that often accompanies a long movie; this was the kind of figeting that is often brought on by a colony of fire ants casually crawling up your leg.

She kept getting closer to his seat and was locking eyes with him more than he could’ve ever hoped for. As she approached, she carefully placed her purple bag into the overhead compartment right above his head. He still refused to believe that this dream was becoming a reality.

She daintily set herself down into the aisle sit next to him and put her arm on the slightly higher of his two arm rests. He worried that his panicked sweat was still dripping off the edge of it from when he was clinging to it prior to her arrival.

She shifted uneasily in the seat but that’s pretty standard on airplanes, he thought to himself. There’s no reason she wouldn’t be interested in you anyway, he playfully teased. You’re great, remember?

His hands were still unimaginably sweaty but now he knew better than to grab the arm rest. The last thing he wanted to do was scare off his future fiancé. Moist palms will definitely do it.

He sat calmly and built up the confidence to talk. He thought carefully about what he would say so he wouldn’t mess it up. His mind raced for the words that would convey the respect he had for her as an individual and unique person that didn’t conform to the standard luggage color expectations of this generation.

He had it. The perfect thing to say. It would be charming and funny and she would just think you were great, he thought to himself.

He paused. Giddy with anticipation.

But as he slowly turned to her, she was getting out of her seat. She must be going to the bathroom, he again thought to himself. She’ll be back in a second. But then she took her luggage out of the overhead compartment. Surely she wasn’t taking all that to the bathroom, he continued to think to himself. And don’t call me Shirley. An idiotic smile adorned his face.

Then, the pilot spoke over the loudspeakers. “Thank you again for flying United Airlines. We’d like to be the first to welcome you to Chicago. Have a pleasant day.” The idiotic smile disappeared.

The mystery girl was already walking down the aisle when he realized what had happened. The plane had taken off, flown for four hours, landed, taxiied and arrived at the gate all while he was coming up with his perfect line to woo the perfect girl.

She was gone. Like, forever. He didn’t get a name, he hadn’t said a word, he hadn’t taken advantage of the jackpot of traveling situations. He gathered his things and put on his headphones. He stood in the aisle waiting to leave and couldn’t help but try to make the best of a bad situation.

“At least, the flight went by really fast. Time flies when you’re having fun,” he said out loud to himself, laughing. No one was really listening. After all, it was an airplane.

The mystery girl was at the door of the plane and was about to step off. Pulling her purple and yellow bag behind her, she glanced back and saw a lanky young man talking to himself and laughing in the aisle. It was the guy who had been sitting next to her for the entire flight.

Man, I’m glad that sweaty guy didn’t try to talk to me, she thought to herself.


  1. The story lacks the punch that I’m looking for. The character has only one objective that is to know the mysterious girl. But to what end? I think the story can be built by adding more story behind the character.

  2. This post was for every guy that has fallen in love more than once on public transit, every girl that has put up with weird guys hitting on them in an inappropriate situation and every bystander that has had to watch the disaster that often ensues.

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