Talking to Strangers

A different kind of writing for today. It’s been a while since I posted – I think of things but they just fly away before I can pin them to the page. So here’s a story. I haven’t written in such a narrative format in a very, very long time. It feels weird.

Flying puts people in a strange frame of mind, really.
At the airport you’re bored and tense – nervous about flying, nervous about missing your flight, nervous about them losing your bags. Bored because all you can do is sit and wait, especially if you’re flying alone. Everyone has their chosen method of passing the time, be it books, music, films, writing… I’ve always been prone to reading while I wait. This is true of any situation in which I know I will be sitting somewhere for hours at a time – I make absolutely sure I have sufficient reading materials to carry me through.
For this particular flight, I was working on “A Feast for Crows”, the fourth book in the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series by George R.R. Martin. I was reading it while waiting in Sao Paulo. I read it on the flight until I fell asleep and then again when I woke up and was waiting to land. I settled in at Charles de Gaulle for a serious 4 hour session of reading. I was hoping to finish the book before getting back to school.
At this point, having been reading the same (very long!) book for hours on end and not speaking to a single other human being, my brain was a bit fried. All I was thinking about was the story. The characters. What was going to happen next?! Who was going to die? Who was going to surprise me by still being alive? Why couldn’t my phone be working so that I could text all the people I know who are reading/have read these damn books? All I could do to take the edge off was just keep reading and keep spiraling further down this crazy rabbit hole.
After a while, I took a reading break to look around. I looked at the guy sitting to my right who had been sitting in exactly the same position for at least two hours – slouched with his hoodie pulled up and his ipod playing, staring into nothingness. The intensity with which he sat still was driving me nuts – what was he thinking about? Was he thinking at all, or had he perfect some form of meditative state of nothingness for airports?
Then I saw someone new sit across from me. He was reading “Dance of Dragons”. Book five in the series. The very next book after mine. Could this be fate? Could I do that thing I’ve always want to do – talk to a stranger just because we’re reading the same book? I kept glancing over at him and wishing I had the balls to talk to him. I could just get up and go sit next to him and say “Hey! I’m reading the same series! How are you liking it?” But I’m too much of a loser and it’s just not going to happen. Because I’m reading my book on a Kindle, there’s no chance of him noticing and starting the conversation himself.
I resigned myself to keep reading and just kind of glance up creepily at him once in a while. He’s around my age, kind of scruffy looking and blonde. Very deeply into the book, from what I can tell. He hasn’t looked up once. I just keep one irrational hope that maybe he’ll sit next to me on the plane, and we’ll maybe start a conversation that way.
This hope sustains me for a while. I’m on the plane – in a middle seat. The first in my row to sit down. Then an old guy sits to my left. I see “Dragons” guy coming down the aisle. Next thing I know, he’s doing the quiet apologetic gesture of “Oh, I’m sorry, this is my seat by the window, could you… maybe? Stand up? I am sorry… thank you for letting me sit down”. That awkward dance we all know quite well. Airplane language, really. Grunts and gestures and no eye contact when sitting down next to a person who you’ll be sharing your personal space with for at least a few hours. I couldn’t believe it. “Dragons” was sitting next to me! WHAT universe does this sort of thing happen in? What will I do about it?
Apparently… nothing. I just sit there. I pull out my kindle and keep reading. I keep glancing over at his book and trying to glean clues from the story – cheating really. I wonder if he’s glanced over at my reading and can tell which book I’m on. This goes on for a torturous 20 minutes – well after takeoff. Finally, I can’t handle it anymore. “Excuse me…. How many of these books are there going to be?!” 
He turns to me and tells me – “Seven”. And so, with that really quite crap opening line, I started talking to my future husband. 
No, that’s not true. But we did start talking. We talked for the rest of the flight. We geeked out over the books. We geeked out over other books we have geeked out about (Harry Potter… Lord of the Rings…). We shared our fears (sharks and things in his eyes… heights for me… especially stairs). We geeked out about things that make us cry, like Disney movies, but not “actually sad” films. 
He confessed that the reason he was on my flight was because he’d missed his the night before because he’d been too involved in the book and missed his boarding call. He told his father he’d been asleep.
When the flight landed, we kept chatting at the airport, waiting for luggage together. Neither of us could remember the exact colours of our suitcases, and were both totally paranoid about our bags being lost. Mine came first, and as I was doing the awkward ‘loiter of indecision’ as to whether I should wait with him or go my own way, he offered me a ride home. 
“Um, wait… what’s your name even?” 
“Oh! I’m John.”
“Hi, I’m Camila… Nice to meet you”, and we laughed over our delayed pleasantries as we shook hands. “People reading “Game of Thrones” don’t need names! We’re part of a society of nerds, we identify each other by our love of books. We don’t need names.”
He and his father kindly gave me a lift home, right up to my apartment building, where we shook hands and said, “It was lovely meeting you. Enjoy finishing the books.”
I haven’t seen him since and have no means of ever contacting him. All I know is that there’s a lovely man out there named John who read “A Song of Ice and Fire” who gave me the most enjoyable flight I’ve ever had.
The moral of the story? It’s totally worth it to talk to strangers … especially ones who are reading the same books as you.
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