Creative Non-Fiction Short Stories. :) Travel, Oldsters, Love, and Compassion.
When I get to 12D and place my bag in the carry-on space, a woman in her seventies is standing at 12B holding up her boarding pass for me to inspect. She’s 12E, my neighbor, I explain as I wave her over. She asks me to move her bag from the left side of the plane to the right where we will sit. She adjusts her head covering, her layers, her jacket, and her purse as she wanders toward me. As I wait for passengers to move through so I can lift her bag, four more elderly people show me their boarding passes. I’m not dressed like a flight attendant, but I am helpful in Turkish phrases. “You’re there, you’re by the front, and you need to go to the back.” Passengers smile at my compelled volunteerism.
Finally, after I have enough clearance to move my neighbor’s bag, I notice she has taken the window seat, rather than the center. I suspect the plane will be full, and indeed a young woman arrives for the window. My neighbor asks if she can please stay by there, “My girl,” she appeals, but Window Woman is firm. She paid for the seat and insists she will take her proper place. We move and re-arrange, my neighbor not interested in taking the aisle. I ask if she’d like me to put her coat above–it is hot in the plane already–but she wants to hold it. I help her with her seat belt. She kisses me on the cheek.
She is going to Istanbul for her mother’s funeral. Her mother was over ninety years old. I swoon appropriately and share my sympathy. At the end of the flight, I serve as a human shield, stepping into the aisle to stop the flow of impatient people from rows 13 and up who don’t understand how to disembark in an orderly and polite fashion. I make space for my neighbor and her suitcase. She calls me dear and glances sideways at Window Woman, who also cuts in front of me toward the exit. Such is rivalry; such is being the good neighbor.
—Flight from Izmir to Istanbul