“WHAT WAS THAT?” I couldn’t help blurting out as the plane lurched scarily. The flight attendants had just finished clearing our food trays, and I was just about to settle down for a nap when that horrible feeling of falling from a great height startled me from my drowsy, stuffed state.
“Turbulence,” Jesse replied, teeth clenched.
Echoing him, the airplane’s paging system came to life. “Ladies and gentlemen, the captain has switched on the fasten seatbelt sign. We are now going through an area of turbulence. We ask all passengers to please remain seated with your seatbelts fastened. Thank you.”
This wasn’t the first time a plane I was riding ran into some rough winds, but this was the worst. It felt like we were falling a couple of storeys and were being shook from side-to-side. I struggled hard not to panic as the turbulence seemed to worsen. During a particularly rough tumble though, I found myself shrieking and grabbing the armrest. It took two minutes more for the turbulence to end, but it felt like an eternity.
“You okay?” I heard Jesse ask.
“Yeah,” I replied weakly. Only then did I realize that I wasn’t clutching the arm rest but his hand. “Oh, sorry,” I apologized, retracting my hand quickly. He smiled kindly before flexing his fingers.
“Not a problem. It was a horrible patch,” he said before gesturing to my lap. “You want to tidy up first?”
Only then did I realize that my shirt had a sickly orange stain that was slowly threatening to spread. There were also random orange splashes everywhere. The back of the seat in front of me. The wall beside me. The little drop-down table. Everywhere but the empty cup of leftover orange soda resting in the cup holder.
“Holy shit,” I cussed when I realized what caused the mess. I quickly apologized then rose to make for the restroom. Jesse stood at the same time, blocking my path. I almost snapped at him, too, until he exited the aisle to make way for me. Then, he held the overhead bin open, helping me reach for my suitcase so I can fish a fresh shirt out. When I was done, he took the suitcase from my hands and shooed me off to the restroom, telling me he’d take care of returning it.
It was difficult changing in the tiny airplane restroom, so I felt victorious once I was done. Still, I knew that a mess was still waiting for me in my seat. A mess that wasn’t there when I got back.
“I got you a new drink,” Jesse explained when I returned. He didn’t just get rid of the old paper cup and wiped down all the stains; he even got me a new drink from the flight attendant.
“Thanks,” I smiled in surprise. That was unexpected. “You didn’t have to but it’s much appreciated.”
“I wasn’t sure what you were having, but I assumed you were having orange juice and not orange soda. I mean, who drinks orange soda anyway? It’s all artificial flavoring and sugar,” he added patronizingly, before slumping into his seat and slipping on the headphones for the plane’s entertainment system. I did the same, picking out channel 6, OPM’s Greatest Hits – 1990s, from the station list.
Just like that, we were strangers again, minding our own business, but somehow the air between us was a little bit friendlier. Sure, he wasn’t the kind of person I usually hung out with. He was still annoyingly arrogant and self-assured. But I appreciated the unsolicited kindness that he showed me. Maybe we could be friends after all, this Jesse and I.
Read more about Five and Jesse in All’s Fair in Blog and War. Available on Ebook format on Amazon and Smashwords.