Economy class is dreary, but unfortunately people better connected than I am – including my dear friend Ponce – had scooped up the business and first class tickets to Denver. However, my time waiting to board with the proles was made tolerable by a troupe of attractive yoga teachers who were traveling to the Sillynanda Ashram, near Denver.
I have a theory that personalities can be read as much from your ass as from your face, which is the kind of thing you think about when looking at one dozen of our species’ hottest bums. I mentioned my hypothesis to my travel companion Fromme; he thought it merited further investigation. We quickly fell into a game, finding repressed anger in one yogini’s tush, and sun-shiny happiness in another. The game ended awkwardly when Fromme identified one perky bum as belonging to the type of woman he’d like to cuddle with. It belonged to a slender male who was so flexible he could do the splits.
We boarded moments later. Fromme took his seat with a group of neo-cons and tax-pledgers at the front of economy class; my seat was in the back.
The woman who sat beside me was a yogini. Her face was oval; her breasts were pressed flat by her sports bra; and her bones were so fine that if she had not been muscular I would have described her as slender. Despite her dolphin shaped slippers and bunny-print shawl, she was not what I would call cute, though with her blemishless skin, lustrous hair and graceful motions she was a thousand different types of beautiful.
I struck up a conversation the moment she first glanced at me. “What’s your name?” I asked.
“Fallopia” she replied matter-of-factly. She noticed the quizzical expression on my face and then elaborated on her strange name, “Fallopia was the dryad who had gymnastic sex with Zeus. The one with the enchanted garters. I’m surprised you haven’t heard of her. There’s a movie. Brad Pitt plays Zeus.”
“I see”, I replied carefully. Although I am at all times interested in the topic of lingerie-clad wood nymphs, my knowledge of Greek mythology is a bit thin. After due consideration I asked, “Who plays you?”
“Its funny, I don’t know who plays Fallopia. Natalie Portman or perhaps Jennifer Lawrence? I’ve never seen it myself. As she spoke, Fallopia casually played with the fringe of the shawl she had wrapped over her shoulders. She was comfortable with her beauty, not ruled by it.
“What’s your name?” she asked.
“James Schuyler Hamilton Shively the Third, but just call me Shively.”
Fallopia nodded at a campaign button I had attached to my lapel. “That Goldwater button is very ironic. I like it.”
I’m pretty bad with irony, so I hesitated before replying, “My father ran Goldwater’s ground campaign in Connecticut.”
She arched an eyebrow.
I interpreted the raised eyebrow as a question, so clarified, “Dad pulled out the vote on election day. That’s what I mean by ‘running a ground campaign’”.
“I see”, she replied neutrally. “Would you vote for Goldwater if he ran today?”. The tone of her voice unsettled me. It was the same one my mother uses when asking me questions like whether torching and tossing a picnic bench off a bridge with the lads is a mature thing to do. I was too pumped up to reflect, so replied to her question immediately.
“I think America has moved on since Goldwater’s time.”
She smiled with relief.
At that point I should have dropped Goldwater altogether and complimented her dolphin slippers. Instead I said, “Things that in 1964 seemed radical, in 2006 seem normal. Like gutting social security.”
“What teams do you follow?” I hastily continued. “I bet you’re a baseball fan, at least a little bit.”
Fallopia replied, “I think I’ll get back to my book.” She rolled to her left and began to read.
After being briefly distracted by an animated cartoon telling me not to smoke it occurred to me full-on how badly I had just struck out with dear Fallopia. Over and over again I thought, “I should have said Goldwater’s ideas are old fashioned.” It too often comes down to that doesn’t it? You don’t have the where-with-all to lie and your entire life changes for the worse.
I brooded until the movie ended. The lights in the cabin darkened. When I reached to turn off Fallopia’s reading light – she had fallen asleep – I noticed that the shawl she was wearing had fallen down to her shoulders, exposing her throat to the cold, dry column of air streaming from the vent above her head. I was reluctant to close off any source of oxygen given the turgid, fart-laden atmosphere, so considered how I could raise her shawl without disturbing her. A more experienced clothing adjuster would have done the deed faster. Despite the risk of delay, I pulled the shawl up slowly, my eyes transfixed by how its red and blue bunny prints offset Fallopia’s fair skin. When I had raised the shawl to the base of her long neck, I surrendered it to her. She covered her neck herself, though in a dream.
I looked away with difficulty; I could not stop my mind from looking back.
Although most of the lights were out the cabin glowed with a faint, warm light. I say light, in the singular, but there was a range of colors. Everyone glowed with some color, except for a handful of people who glowed black.
I awoke sometime later. The dull cabin light made it seem like I had been transported to a different world; the cartoon Martians blowing up New York on the screen in front of me suggested otherwise. To my right, Fallopia was still asleep. I looked at her briefly, but intently, trying to take a snapshot of this experience with all of my senses. These would be my last minutes with her ever.
I fell asleep again.
When I awoke I was looking into Fallopia’s eyes. She gave me a friendly smile, sat up, closed the air vent, turned to me and said in a very proper voice, “Shively, please forgive me for being so brusque with you earlier. No modern person could ever support Barry Goldwater’s policies. Excuse me for presuming.” She clasped my right hand in both of hers, “I’m sorry that your father supported Goldwater. It must have been rough growing up in that kind of environment.” Fallopia heaved a sigh of relief as she sat back in her seat, her duty to Compassion done.
My hand went to my lapel. I unfastened the Goldwater ’64 button and said, “I better take this off. I don’t want anyone getting the wrong idea.”
She smiled. I smiled back.
We landed moments later. Fallopia was whisked away by her group before I had a chance to say goodbye. I said goodbye anyway.