Rob raised his arm for the third time and he looked carefully the shiny purple mark with the shape of a crescent moon. He raised the plastic blind of the tiny window. The strong white light flooded the enclosure, which was until then in shadows, and he forced his eyes to look into his skin again under the clarifying light.
-Close that, would ya? – Asked the person next to him with a groan, and tried to put himself comfortable by laying by his side.
-It’s just a moment- He answered with a babbling, still his eyes on his arm. Both had Latin-American accents, but from different countries.
Between the naturally suntanned skin, the crescent moon stood out strangely. It looked like it was shining. He took down the blind, and he let his eyes accommodate to the change of light, while dropping his head back and repeating to himself.
-It’s just a bruise. I must have hit myself at the boarding and I didn’t realise then. Yes. That must be what happened- The lilaceous colour remembered him of the grape bubble gum he would eat when he was a child. A strong violet colour, that looked more artificial than natural. He laughed at his own idea, and he relaxed a bit. He took the water bottle the flight attendant offered him and he looked at the rest of the flight.
The passengers looked like a diffuse shape, like one only being, enormous, misshaped, with a lot of heads-like protuberances. Most of them were sleeping, with the exception of two or three people that were observing the screens with an empty glaze. It was because of this that he hated planes: He felt like crammed into, like cattle in a truck driving to a place they wouldn’t come back.
You eat when you are ordered, drink when you have permission to do so, and sleep when the lights go off and you are forced to close the lids so you never know if its day or night out there. Take some super-processed Hollywood products with your chocolate. Have a nice flight.
He woke up with a nudge from the passenger next to him. He had fallen asleep with the head falling to his side, like a painting from Picasso. The neck complained when he tried to move his head. The flight attendant smiled at him.
Her lips were of a red purplish colour, not like the bubble gum from his childhood, but like some kind of exotic berry. It combined with the rest of her uniform, the white blouse, the jacket and the skirt to the knees.
-What do you want for dinner? We offer Chicken with vegetables and rice, or Lamb with potatoes-
-I don’t know English- He said while trying to sit up and while trying to process what the woman just said. By the corner of his eye he captured a loathing expression in the face of the young woman, or so he thought –Chicken- He decided, forcing himself to smile.
He took the lid of the metallic container without much enthusiasm. To him it smelled like refrigerated food, the kind of tray you can find at the bottom of a fridge in the supermarket, the one that someone would heat in the microwave when he decided to stop trying to do something in life. The only thing about it was that there weren’t microwaves in the plane.
-If they had one, then this metal monstrosity would take a nosedive- He said quietly and imagined the plane, going through the air with a strong buzz and crashing against the calm ocean, causing quite an explosion, a terrible train of waves and a magnificent spectacle for no audience. The curtain drops and everyone disappears between salt bubbles, falling deeper and deeper, inside a white coffin in the deep blue sea.
He laughed, almost with the same strength that he had laughed before with the grape bubble gum idea, and he realized he must look like a mad man. He gave some slow and deep breaths. There must be another six more hours until arriving. He’d look up a movie to watch, he’d try to sleep a bit more, and everything would disappear as soon as he’d get off the plane. He took the idol that hanged from a leather strip round his neck and felt the humanoid form between his thumb and index. It was a memory of his travel. He was travelling home.
He tried to poke the fork into the little meat portion but stopped in mid act. Next to the purple crescent moon there was another, smaller, still purple, like shining.
He stared at his face in the mirror. He appeared tired, with bags under his eyes. The water drops shined over the chestnut skin toasted by the sun. When he observed carefully, he discovered he had some darker freckles, caused by the constant exposition to the sun and heat. He also had some new wrinkles, which looked deeper due to the poor light of the cubicle, and he felt, suddenly, much older. How long was he travelling? Three months? Or were it four? He couldn’t remember. He felt ten years older, even thought he was still in his twenties.
He rubbed the liquid soap over the skin roughly for some seconds, but after cleaning the foam with hot water, the spots were still there.
May be he was sick. I could be a regional illness. It could be some kind of chicken pox, like the one he had when he was a child, with a fever that would disappear after a week. He could have caught it anywhere, thinking back about his travelling, when he was moneyless and he had to eat from the garbage, and he had to sleep on the floor in the streets, in parks, and even inside a prison cell. It could be an allergic reaction, to who knows what. It could be an insect’s sting; it could have happened without him noticing.
The two crescent moons like stars in a dark sky.
May be it was nothing to be worried about.
He jumped at the knocks at the door and the metal door trembled a bit under the fists.
-Hey! Get out, you have been there for fifteen minutes already! – Shouted someone, followed by a mumbling of feminine voices.
-Sir, are you all right? – A woman asked after some seconds and Rob opened the door and got out hastily.
He stood still for some minutes, feeling slightly dizzy. He didn’t want to go back to his seat yet. He let the soaked head fall forward while he grasped his hands into his knees, gasping slowly. He was thirsty. He felt thirstier than he ever had been before. He stared at the grey carpet with its purple patterns carefully. The plane shook, lightly, a shake that remembered him to driving over a hole in the street.
He raised his head a bit and looked how two attendants were throwing the trays already used by the passengers into a garbage can with a hermetic lid. One of those trays was almost untouched, but because of strict hygiene conditions it would also end up in the trash. What a waste, he thought, and let his head fall again. He listened to the murmuring of the stewardesses and then the sounds of hells drown in the carpet.
Two purple shoes, too purple, appeared in his field of vision.
-Do you feel sick? – She asked considerately and Rob repeated, this time to himself, that he didn’t actually understand English. I don’t know. I must be the only one that doesn’t know English in the entire damned plane.
-Me not English- He babbled and the woman nodded slowly. She moved and pointed to one of those bags for throwing up.
-Sick. Are you going to be sick?-
He shook his head no. He examined her thoroughness, the woman had certain beauty, but it was detracted from by the uniform and the obligatory make up. Every flight attendant had the same dull hat and the tight bun, the same make up combination for face, lips, and nail colour; ever so each one of them looked like taken from a mould. Custom made and in masse to fly through the airs until they reach their expiration date, after which they will be disposed in trash boxes with hermetic lids.
He got up slowly and pointed to an empty glass, without remembering the word for water. Breathing slowly, he let the liquid fall down his throat. After finishing, he pointed with the drinking glass and asked.
-Another- The attendant understood and obeyed. He stopped after the third glass, after glancing up and discovering the consternated looks of the employees. He threw the plastic into the garbage bin and asked, trying to imitate an English accent.
-¿Medico? ¿Algún medico a bordo?- After seeing that they didn’t react, he tried again –Doctor? A doctor?- And pointed to the First Aid box that hanged in the wall, lighted with a weak green light.
-Do you need First Aid? – Asked one of the women and Rob sighed in disappointment. He moved his arms in the universal sign for ‘Forget about it’ and walked back slowly to his seat.
He would go to the doctor as soon as the plane lands. It would be the first thing to do, just to take off this problem from him as fast as possible. He tried to swallow, but this throat was still dry. He’d go to the hospital with the suitcases and his travel backpack, he’d wait in the emergency room and maybe this way they’d check him faster. Even, if asked, he could say that he was going to take a plane when he had this problem at the last minute. May be this way he could get some priority.
They’d give him some tablets, or some antibiotics. Maybe they’d take a blood sample or they’d inject him an antidote for a faster relief. He felt the bitter taste of an imaginary medicine in his palate, and he swallowed again with his sandy throat.
He tripped over the knees of his neighbour, he mumbled an apology, and he sat heavily on his seat. He rubbed his eyes with his hands until he saw stars crossing the black field of his vision. Then, he tried to relax. Five hours until landing. Another hour, until getting out the airport. Until then, he should sleep.