Sitting with her legs crossed, like a man’s, honest to god, the first thing I noticed was that she was reading. The paperback she held with her right hand, and in the left she twirled a cell phone. It was one of those flip ones; the kind the company gives you for free just because you signed up for service with them. I was lucky because if the airport hadn’t been crowded at all, I wouldn’t have had an excuse to sit next to her. Double lucky really, because there was a seat available at all.
There were things I had planned to say in situations, rare situations, like this. People don’t read anymore. I know this, and people who read know this. The Delta gates at La Guardia are set up so that if you wanted to sit across from a pretty girl and strike up a conversation in the boarding area, you wouldn’t have to try that hard. And it was all neutral colors around us. Nothing flashy to distract the eye. The seats were a sub-shiny black and the carpet had been pure navy at one point, I’m sure. She was sandwiched in between a large white women with forty plus years and a lot chins, and a large brown man with a mustache that invited mockery. To my left was a tiny Asian guy playing on a game thingie, and a young black girl that had lost her voice some how. Every so often I heard her squeaking to someone next to her about how this was “so nerve wracking!” and that was depressing.
I had planned for situations like this. Similar to this, at least. The key was to speak up. If the book is very engrossing, she just might not hear you. And she’s got to hear you, because if she doesn’t then you look like an idiot. And I didn’t want to look like an idiot. Not in front of these people, I thought. Because I’m young and I’m attractive, relatively. Let’s not fuck this up while I’m in my prime. It’s also pretty important to enunciate. Not overly so. You don’t want to sound like you’re trying, but you want her to hear you and understand you. Chances are, regardless of what you say and how you say it, her first response will be, “what?” or “excuse me?” or something along those lines. You want those words to come from her surprise that someone’s talking to her, not from her lack of understanding. Communication, clear communication, is very important. There are a lot of little minor things that you need to keep track of as well, but it’s really important (I could make these into a list) that you don’t get bogged down on the rules. I mean, the first two are really important, and there are other tiny important ones too. They’re all important, but you can’t get lost in the details. The most important thing, in the end, is to act.
“You enjoying the book?”
“I’m trying to.”
I was clear. I enunciated. I was spontaneous and uncaring and casual, and my words seemed organic and great. But fuck, sometimes people are just assholes. I really wanted to respond with a “yeah?” or a “cool,” or even just some laugh that said “I don’t give a fuck that you don’t give a fuck,” but instead I just leaned back and tried to check my peripheries to makes sure my neighbors hadn’t noticed my colossal failure. They hadn’t. They probably don’t even read.
And that’s how I met Melanie Simms, the unexpected girl of my dreams. I didn’t know this at the time I tried to engage in conversation with her. At that point she was just some adorable hipster with dirty drown-hair, cut like she did it, and jeans tight enough to be leggings. I guess I was thrice lucky because we were sitting right next to each other on the plane. Turns out we had a lot in common. We were both originally from Texas. I was from Austin; she, Houston.
“I just graduated, actually. My roommates are going to school though. NYU.”
“My boyfriend lived in New York. I moved up there with him.”
“He doesn’t live there anymore?”
“He’s not my boyfriend anymore.”
Our parents both lived in Austin.
“…it was just so much easier for them to get weed in Austin. They have so any connections there. And Houston is, like, a four hour drive and just not as good anyway.”
“The city. It smells. It stinks.”
And we both read.
“So you don’t like it?”
“Yeah. That’s what I meant. I wasn’t trying to be bitch.”
“The tone of your voice…”
“…and your facial expression…”
“I kind of figured…”
Once she realized that I was sitting next to her, I think she just decided to suck it up and try and be friendly. That’s probably easier to do than admit to yourself you’re a bad person. I guess because of that, the plane ride turned out to be enjoyable. It was one thing, in the end, that sealed out future together as something more than acquaintances who met on a one way from New York to Austin.
“What are you reading?”
I pulled out my book.
“Oh. Jesus. That’s probably my favorite book. Ever.”
“Want to trade?” I indicated at the allegedly mediocre novel she was reading.
“You’re not enjoying it?” At this point she seemed legitimately hurt.
I just looked at her (I’m proud of this) and held up her ‘favorite book. Ever.’
“This is my third time through.”