The Castle


The book was open in my lap when a shadow drifted across page one. A stranger sat down beside me in the aisle seat. She was tall and skinny. My book was wider than her waist. As she lowered her bottom to the dark cushion, her legs folded underneath her like stilts. She took out a magazine from her briefcase and flipped through all of the pages. I adjusted the metal buckle across my lap, and my book snapped shut without a finger for a bookmark.

“I lost my page,” I murmured to myself.
“You were on page one.”
The woman didn’t look up from her magazine. She was busily turning the pages, which resembled propellers in motion. Her hair caught the breeze and alighted in puffs around her cheeks. I was reminded of a dried dandelion with white whiskers for parachutes. Distracted, I turned to page one of my book and failed to relocate a sentence. The women’s hair was white, but she couldn’t have been more than my age: 33.

“Is this your first time to Florida?”
“I’ll just be passing through. I have a connecting flight.”
She looked up briefly from her magazine. There were no wrinkles on her face. Pulled back by two bird-shaped pins, her hair was so blonde that it appeared white. Through the oval window, I saw attendants filling the plane with luggage. I felt the steady thumping of suitcases below my seat. The air was becoming warm. I noticed that the people seated around me were falling asleep. Adjusting the air nozzle above my head, I felt my heart pounding, synchronized to the intestinal churning within the belly of the aircraft. Noisy bubbles popped in my stomach and I luched over in my seat, wanting to vomit.

“Love at first sight?”
“No, actually they had to meet several times before anything clicked…”

I heard a couple of phrases from a nearby conversation before I collapsed into a fetal position and fainted.


A magazine was open in my lap when I saw a woman put her carry-on items down in the adjacent seat. She struggled to get her things into the overhead compartment and then sat down, flustered. The seat cushion let out a hissing sound.

“Is this your first time to New York?” he asked, slightly out of breath. Her stomach fit into her shirt like a pillow. I wanted to put my head up against it and sleep to avoid conversation. Her question was ridiculous. My earliest memory: peeping up from my baby carriage at the celestial dome of the Guggenheim Museum.
“No, I was born and raised in the City.

I uncrossed my legs as the women took a heavy book out of her purse. I didn’t catch the title, but it looked thick enough to be a Bible. I immersed myself in the colors of my magazine. Turning from cover to cover, I let the pages fan my face. The women next to me was restless. She adjusted her seat belt, looked out the window, perched her fingers in her book. Suddenly, she fell face forward into her lap.

A flight attendant walked down the aisle offering pillows and blankets. I took a pillow and declined a blanket. I prodded the woman next to me.
“Are you alright? Would you like a pillow or something?
I got no answer. I unbuckled my seat belt and got up.


The plane was still in the runway, in line for take off. I tore open the package of peanuts, an item from a previous flight, and let them tumble out into my palm. The seat next to me was vacant. I vaguely remembered a skinny woman who was stupidly trying to read a fashion magazine with no words. There was only a pillow in her place.
“Is this seat taken?” A child stood in the aisle, holding a stuffed animal by the arm.I dropped some peanuts on the floor.
“The woman who was sitting here got up and left.”
“I’m flying alone. Can I sit next to you?”
Removing the pillow, I made room for the girl and her stuffed animal. She placed her teddy bear in her lap and strapped herself in.
“What are you reading?” she asked, looking at my heavy book.
“It is a book about birds.”
“My favorite is the hummingbird.” She poked her finger into the stuffed animal’s ear. “It’s the only bird that can fly backwards.”


I found an empty seat next to a balding man. My skinny legs brushed against his trousers as I took the inner seat. Sunlight filtered through the oval window and I pulled the plastic shade straight down. Retrieving my magazine from the outer sleeve of my briefcase, I glanced over at the man. I only wished for one thing: his complete reticence.
”   ,” he said, running a smooth hand over his head.
”   ,” he repeated.
“I’ll just be passing through. I have a connecting flight.”


The stuffed animal loomed large in her lap, concealing her face. She sputtered out another fact about hummingbirds while I placed peanuts in my mouth.
“They’re very particular about their nests. They call for special ingredients like scraps of tinfoil, thin twigs, or even a hair plucked from your head.”
“How do you know so much about hummingbirds? I split a peanut down its center and picked out the baby sprout. I nursed it in my palm until I decided to eat it.
“I read,” she leaned her head into the stuffed animal. “I also memorize what I read.”


Tired of flipping through glossy pages, I pressed a button with the icon:

A flight attendant promptly arrived.
“Do you need another pillow?”
“No, when is the plane going to take off?”
“We’re number three on the runway.
The flight attendant drifted further down the aisle, arms loaded with pillows.
” ?”
The bald man was talking to me again.
“No, I was born and raised in the City.”
” ?”
“My name is Celexa. What is yours?”


The girl bounced restlessly in her seat. The stuffed animal mimicked her.
“When is the plane going to take off?”
Out of peanuts, I crumpled the foil in my hand.