The man on the plane was an object of intrigue. . He was naturally tanned with gray, round, thunderstorm eyes. His jaw was square but soft at the same time, and any time he slightly opened his mouth you could see the brilliance of white teeth that lay inside.
He sat bolted upright as his shoulders stretched the width of the entire seat. It made me wonder if he was indeed as comfortable as a person was supposed to feel sitting on these first class lazy boy seats. I don't believe his shoulders exactly fit, and I felt a little sorry for him.
His hair was Circa-1929 and reminded me of my grandpa's hair in pictures of his wedding day: dark, parted on the side and slicked back. I assumed he was a businessman who hated the rigidness of his job, the way his hair was noticeably wavy and on the verge of coming undone behind his ears. I decided the hairstyle was far too disciplined for him.
He wore khaki's and a slightly wrinkled, mint green striped polo shirt. Probably forgot to do the wash, I mused, but I could tell that his underwear was clean. He seemed to be an overall, usually clean, crisp sort of person.
Handsome, he was. I hoped I'd grow up to look as striking and pre-father-like as he did.
I wanted to begin conversation, this man fascinated me. I hadn't seen my father since I was two and this was the first put-together man I had seen since. I stopped myself after I peered across his lap to view the takeoff through the oval airplane window. My eyes latched onto his lap immediately. There, his hands lay, big and clean and tanned and manicured, the perfect and strongest set of men's hands, shaking. Trembling. One wringing the other and the other wringing back. Cracking knuckles and pinching skin and even more vigorous wringing.
It irked me that I hadn't noticed this peculiar trait before. His face had seemed calming, focused; not preoccupied in the least. I watched him for a moment, noticed his thunderstorm eyes close, shutting out the lightning that bothered him, or just shutting out the lackluster view of the airplane from his first class seat.
I could tell he was not in any mood to talk to me. I was only seven years old and had my Hardy Boys chapter book opened to chapter two on the meal tray in front of me. He did not want to have anything to do with me, I felt, but I wanted to know all about him anyway.
My mother, clad in style and full of wisdom (although I did not know it at the time), sat across the aisle to my left. She whispered my name curtly, and I answered at the third or fourth undertone due to the trance of interest I was experiencing.
"Miles. Please don't bother that man. Can't you see that his heart has been broken and you bothering him is only going to make him ascend in his loneliness."
Being seven years old, I listened. I did not speak to that man the entire flight home. Instead, I watched him carefully. I watched him sigh, and shake his head, and close his eyes a countless amount of times. Finally, I watched a tear roll down his masculine structured face and fall somewhere between his neck and his starched collar.
I was seven when I found out the control women can have on men. They can leave them powerless and frightened, and more maudlin than any other man upset for any other reason.
At the baggage claim at LaGuardia airport, I turned to my mother as we stood on the lookout for our small load of luggage.
"Mom, never let me go near a girl for as long as I live."
I was a little wounded when she laughed at me- in fact, she laughed right in my face and stroked my hair as if I was still her baby. For that second, I hated her just as any other eight year old boy would treat his mother while she babied him.
"Darling, I can't do that."
"But mom, why not?"
My mother closed her eyes and shook her head, doing both very slowly.
"We're going to hurt you, but you're going to have to deal with it."
"But mom, I – "
"Miles, that's one thing that I will never, ever be able to help you with."
My mother, for as long as she lived, never did let me in on this silly secret of the female race.
And I, for as long as I live, will never understand how the power and the pain
from a bouquet of kisses
and the fallacy of words.