In Flight Memory by Nik Eveleigh

typewriter

The ice will wake you. You’ll hear it dropping in the plastic cup, sense it being passed in front of you to the woman in the window seat you haven’t spoken to since the flight began. You’ll drift, then you’ll open your eyes and stare into a face that would be prettier with less make-up. Her strip-light smile won’t fade as she asks you, patiently, for the third time if you’d like something to drink. You’ll order a gin and tonic even though you don’t want one because that’s what you do on flights. While she rummages for the gin needle in the haystack of unwanted brandy you’ll wonder if you’ll get peanuts or mini pretzels.

You’ll bet on pretzels.

And you’ll be right.

You’ll mix your too-strong gin, take a swallow and thin it out with tonic. You’ll do your best not to make eye-contact with the woman to your left but you’ll eventually fail. She’ll smile, say hello. Raise her cup as a toast. You’ll smile back and take another sip. You’ll compare inanities about the quality of the drinks, the screaming baby six rows in front and the in-flight movie choices. She’ll tell you how rare it is these days to be on a plane with a two-three-two seating configuration and you’ll smile to yourself but it won’t reach your eyes. She’ll ask if you’re on holiday and you’ll say no.

Business then?

Again you’ll say no and wait out the inevitable pause until she asks, “Well if you aren’t flying for business or pleasure, why are you flying? If you don’t mind me asking.”

You’ll delay around a large mouthful of gin and wave her off as she starts to retreat, afraid she’s offended you in some way.

I’m flying home to bury my mother.”

And once those words are in motion the rest will start tumbling out. She’ll say how sorry she is and you’ll tell her it’s kind of her and then you’ll explain. How the plane will land on time but it’ll be delayed for fifteen minutes on the ground because of a problem with the walkway. How you’ll make up seven in the airport terminal because you’ve only got hand luggage and passport control is always quick but you’ll lose another four because the arrogant prick in front of you in the car rental queue will demand an upgrade in the hope that if he makes enough noise he’ll get one to shut him up. How he’ll fail and storm off in a tirade of promised communications to head office that he’ll never write. How you’ll lose another minute empathising with the assistant about how rude people are these days then how she’ll wink and give you an upgrade. How you’ll be thirteen minutes behind schedule when you leave the airport and how you’ll make up the time and a bit more on the motorway. How you’ll get to the edge of the village you grew up in and hammer the steering wheel, screaming at the cement truck blocking the road, at the line of cars boxing you in from behind. How you’ll abandon the car and run the last mile so you can be home by five like you promised. How you’ll stagger through the front door at six minutes after five and see the flat, dull look in your sister’s eyes that tells you all you need to know. How she’ll tell you that your mum died just after three and none of it even mattered.

The woman next to you will retreat behind a wide-eyed stare and try to form the question you know must come. And when she finally finds her breath and asks, “How can you possibly know all this…?” you’ll pause and wonder if you can come up with a suitably palatable lie.

You’ll think you can.

And you’ll be wrong.

And in then end you’ll tell her the truth.

I’ve been here before.”

 

Nik Eveleigh

 

Header Image: “KitchenLH” by Etan J. Tal – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:KitchenLH.jpg#/media/File:KitchenLH.jpg

14 thoughts on “In Flight Memory by Nik Eveleigh

  1. Nik, while I find something a little over-bearing in that style of presentation – you’ll…she’ll… – there’s a neat story there, and I didn’t see the end coming. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Richard. I’ve wanted to experiment with this POV for a long while but my main concern was exactly what you’ve pointed out – the fact that it can be over-bearing and suffocating. It needed the correct story in order for it to be suitable rather than a gimmick and I hope that managed to come through – from your comments it seems like it just about won you over! Thanks for reading and commenting – appreciated.

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  2. Sad and interesting format of course, but that last line though! Goos job, Nik! (That’s somewhere between being a goose and doing a good job)
    ATVB my friend
    Tobbe

    Liked by 1 person

    • I cannot think of anything more rewarding than being a partially successful goose – thank you from the bottom of my beak. Glad the format seems to have worked overall – it was a fun experiment but I don’t think I’ll be writing much more in this POV! Cheers, Nik

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  3. Great to see you experimenting with different formats and I think you made a pretty good fist of this one. The last line is haunting – darn it now I want a gin and tonic and it’s breakfast time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m not sure of your tone Diane – it sounds like you might be suggesting that gin and tonic for breakfast is something unusual or indeed socially unacceptable? I find the vodka on my cornflakes is too edgy unless I have a G&T on the side 🙂 Thanks for reading and commenting – I’m happy with how the experiment turned out. Ultimately I wanted to write a story so the POV needed to enhance rather than detract. Cheers, Nik

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  4. Hi Nik,
    A great opening first line “The ice will wake you.” Of course using 2nd person makes it an uneasy read as we (the reader) are experiencing an individual situation to which we are forced to share. In many ways it is haunting to learn about the lonely obsessive character’s irritation towards his fellow passenger. It screams leave me alone. However, we learn why at the end of the story, but nonetheless I didn’t feel any sympathy for him/her. The ending was in my mind brilliant as it echoes the beginning. “In the end you’ll tell her the truth – ‘I’ve been here before.” The ice has been broken and what will ensue (continuation of the story) is an outpouring of grief. The poor woman on the left will be drawn in and asking for more gin –forget the tonic…
    An interesting story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi James. Great to hear your thoughts on this – and I can’t think of much better news for a writer than to hear the opening line and the last line being singled out for praise. The POV is something I’ve wanted to try since reading How You’ll Wake Up Lena by Michael Capel on Shortbread a couple of years ago – it’s a tricky one to get right but I was mindful of trying to use it to enhance the sense of unease and I’m glad to note in your comments that it achieved that in your mind. It’ll be a while before I try this style again I suspect but it’s been fun to push myself and the supportive comments from you and others have made it worthwhile. Cheers, Nik

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  5. Pingback: In Flight Memory | Nik Eveleigh

  6. Hi Nik, this is a master class in structure setting up a line.
    I thought this was sad, mysterious and shows an understanding on the cruelty of acceptance of a potential situation. This idea is what probably causes every reader to experience some sort of self worrying-chill.
    A very clever piece of writing!!!
    Hugh

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Hugh – it seems my stories generally appeal to you and long may it continue! I’m thrilled at the reception this piece has received – despite wanting to experiment, the story itself is always my non-negotiable so I’m glad that the story and the feelings it explores comes across. Appreciate your support as always. Cheers, Nik

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