On New Year’s Day, strong winds at Dublin Airport blew an Aer Lingus plane off the runway and into another parked plane, knocking out two international jumbos from a small fleet. More than a week later, the schedule still shudddered with the force of those flapping wings. My flight was delayed for hours as Aer Lingus borrowed planes from the neighbors to ship emigrants back to Boston, Chicago, and New York.
I sat in front of Jonathan, who was unhappy about the delays. He was 16 or 17 and made like an egg: round, pale, and hairless. He wore a beige knitted hat pulled down tightly like a swimming cap. He was getting over the ‘flu, and wailed as his stuffed-up sinuses expanded in the pressurized cabin.
“No no no no no no no NOOOOO! I’m getting very angry. I hate it I hate it I hate it. Hurts TOO MUCH. I hate going on an aeroplane.” He pounded my seat. When the baby opposite started to cry, he stuck his fingers in his ears. “Shut up shutup shutup SHUT UP!”
Though he kicked my seat like a metronome for ten hours, I grew fond of this raging bundle of id, who gave the only sane response to airborne life. Why shouldn’t you weep and wail and protest, Jonathan, after being herded like a veal calf, stripped of belt and shoes, finger-printed, photographed, kept waiting, strapped to a too-small seat, and fed ugly food? I knelt up on my seat to distract him from his torment. He lived in Ireland, he said, but he lived in New Jersey too. New Jersey was where he went to school. He was sick and his head hurt. He didn’t like flying.
I had gathered as much.
When we landed at last at JFK, he broke free of his bonds and launched himself into my lap, not bothered by the fact that he would have made two of me. He grabbed a handful of my hair and began to sniff it, then pointed to his meaty shoulder.
“He wants you to pat it,” said his mother weakly. I had little choice. He sniffed another handful of my hair and demanded another pat.
“I like you,” he shouted cheerfully. “Are you looking for a husband?”
“A marriage proposal. Now, isn’t that a grand start to the new year?” said the man across the aisle.