The little old man wears a beige outdoor jacket, adorned with many pockets, loops, toggles. He counts his aspirins in a small plastic bag, takes off his shoes, pulls on new black socks for the flight. His white hair clings to traces of black and many veins track the length of his hands.
He roots through the ceaseless compartments in his daypack. He adjusts the white bandana at his neck, pulling it over his mouth and nose like a bandit. He squints and breathes through the cloth, then spreads himself out for sleep, then doesn’t sleep. He lowers the bandana. Seconds later, he removes his glasses, gives himself a quick neck rub, replaces his glasses. Counts his pills, chews gum, sips water, shifts the in-flight magazine in the seat pocket–but doesn’t read it. He unfolds out his newspaper. German. The article he opens has been extensively parsed and underlined. He takes a pen from his shirtfront pocket and circles two words, puts the pen away, puts his shoes back on.
Time for a walk around the cabin. On his return, he overshoots his row. Flushing red, he searches for a familiar location, then spots his vacant place ten rows back. He smiles at his neighbors, leaves his seatbelt unclicked, glances at his watch. In tiny movements he kills the first hour of the flight, but sighs at the five that lie ahead. He begins again with his newspaper and resumes the work only he understands: underlining phrases, circling words, keeping himself occupied.
–Flight from Munich to Reykjavik.