Where does the good go

Cigarettes and Whiskey

Cigarettes and Whiskey

I think I have one of those faces. You know: soft, friendly, empathetic, inviting. The kind of face that says, “hey, I’ve got nothing better going on. Tell me about yourself, what are you thinking about? I’m listening.”
Which, of course, is unfortunate, as I am very much hard, anti-social, judgmental and aloof. I have tried furrowing my brow, pursing my lips, baring my teeth, closing my eyes, wearing headphones — but when the all-too-familiar tap on my forearm comes from the stranger sitting next to me on the flight home last night — once again, I knew it was all for naught.

“You going to finish that?”
I was sitting in the middle seat of the center rows, four aisles from the back.
Read: worst. seat. ever. (Ok, at least I wasn’t next to the bathroom).
The owner of the tapping finger was probably in her mid-sixties, her thinning hair was combed all the way back and she reeked of cigarette smoke.
The whole ride I had been leaning to the right, with my head tilted in the air to avoid inhaling the smell. But now, I was facing her and the only thing that lessened the cigarette smell was the equally putrid smell of whiskey (she already had three empty mini bottles of the stuff scattered on her tray and was well on her way to finishing the fourth.)
Her wrinkled finger was pointing at United’s version of the “cheesecake.” I had tasted a fork-full before reclosing the container on the airline’s pointedly failed experiment.
“No, do you want it?” I replied.
She reached over and took it off my tray. Guess she wanted it.
I resumed the position of olefactory self-preservation and turned the volume up on the headphones (interesting note: the airline had a feature called “Spotlight On” where they would dedicate one in-flight station to a single artist. This month’s spotlight was on Alanis Morissette. They played a bunch of songs from her new album, with the rest of the hour filled with her previous top forty hits. However, when they got to ‘Ironic’ they deleted half the song. But the omission was done so poorly, that I couldn’t help trying to figure what they had cut out. Then it hit me: they deleted the entire verse about the old man who was afraid to fly “waited his whole damn life to take this flight, and as the plane crashed down, he thought, well isn’t this nice…” )

Moments later, the tapping resumed. I removed the headphones and looked over.
“You know, you girls shouldn’t be dieting so much. You need to enjoy your life and food is part of it”
The cheesecake was gone, but I could see remnants of the cherries clinging to her brown teeth.
“Umm… yeah…I just didn’t like it”
“I have Cancer, you know”
“Oh…I’m so sorry..”
“Don’t feel sorry for me. I’m travelling now. Spent every penny in the savings. Now, I’m running up the credit cards. That sonabitch is going to get a big surprise when I die.”
She snorted loudly and downed the last swallow of the Johnny Walker.
I went to put back on the headphones…
“I’ve been married 36 years. You married?”
“Good, marriage is a black hole. They drop you down it and then you realize that at the end is your grave. No, stay just the way you are. Eat your cake. I had four kids and you know, what? I can’t even remember the third one’s name.”
Now she was laughing (well, or hack coughing and wheezing…but I think laughing because I had a clear view of both rows of rotting teeth.)
“Don’t wanna know it either, probably just as dull as the others. But God help me, they’ll have nothing to fight over when I’m gone, ‘cept my cold body. That’ll shock ’em.”
Note to self: take up parachute jumping.
“I should’ve sticked a screw driver right between his shoulder blades, years ago.”
Whose? The third kid? The husband? I didn’t ask.
“That penny-pinchin’ sonabitch, he’ll be in for it. After New York, I’m going to Florida. I’m going to see the world and he’ll be paying for it till he dies.”
She hadn’t looked at me in a few minutes, and I could tell that these last few sentences she said more to herself, so I put on the headphones and closed my eyes.
I heard her order two more whiskeys.
I stayed perfectly still, hoping to avoid anymore conversation.
Luckily, I fell asleep for real.
My cab ride home was uneventful, but my jean jacket still smelled like smoke and the scent swirled with the memory of the rotten-toothed woman with the whiskey breath.
I felt nauseated.
I rolled down the window and heard Alanis blaring from a passing car.

4 Responses to “Cigarettes and Whiskey”

  1. cube Says:

    i don’t know that is a pretty cool story, and worth the hassle in my mind.

  2. Karol Says:

    ‘Good, marriage is a black hole.’ And all she was thinking was ‘why does it gotta be black for?’

  3. lk Says:

    I hate Dr Phil, but he could do a number on her. Sounds like she got what she deserves. Many lessons there for the rest of us.

  4. Clareified » Blog Archive » Television Says:

    […] A few years ago, I did the unthinkable. I gave up TV for the month before my birthday. There was no grand plan, back then, I just plugged the TV out and went to sleep. I was cranky and miserable and bitter for weeks, to the point where I almost said “nuts to this!” But I stuck it out, wrote some interesting stories, solved a few global problems AND learned something about myself.I repeated the experiment the following year, but this time I built in so many exceptions to my non-TV watching that really the only thing I sacrificed was watching Sports and once I decided poker wasn’t really a Sport, I’d really accomplished nothing. I didn’t even bother going through the motions last year. But the season approaches again and I’m thinking of taking the Dawn Summers Summer Blackout Challenge again. Lord knows I’m behind on my novel reading, my screenplay writing and any one of a million other things I can do with the seven hours a day I spend watching television. Well, the gauntlet has been thrown. Will I pick it up? […]

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