Aug 14

Potato Chips

It was the kind of Tuesday afternoon that made you want to do something at the same time you're ready to take a nap. And the kind of plane ride where the free bag of chips is the best thing you're going to have all day. The kind of fourty-degree weather that's too cold to do anything and too warm to do anything cold. Diana was the kind of person who liked to figure out what kind of people the people around her were. 

So Tuesday afternoon found her, on a plane, stretching out in her seat and staring at the back of the person's head in front of her, trying to ignore the constant kicking of the seven year old boy behind her. He'd been nudging her seat back and forth since they took off, and she had given up turning around and trying to give him her best I'm-not-your-mother-but-listen-to-me look. Next to her sat a middle aged man who looked like he had gotten past the age where he could try new things. He was engrossed in his e-reader, squinting his eyes every so often and relaxing them like he was trying to figure out a certain mystery or clue. He wore a Red Sox jersey and faded, tough looking jeans. His old navy baseball cap was tipped far back on his head, almost as if it was trying to fall off on it's own. Diana had been studying him for several minutes now, wondering where he came from and where he was going. 

The man looked up at her all of a sudden and smiled, but his eyes slid right past her and out the window on her left side. Diana looked out too, but she didn't see anything except clouds below them and blue next to them and around them. ...Somewhere a baby cried and "The Greatest Showman" accidentally blasted out of an iPad from someone in the back. The man stretched his arms above his head and blinked his eyes, fast, like he was trying to get the words out from in front of them. They were the kind of startling shade of blue Diana had always found alluring but the smallest bit creepy. They were just too bright, too feeble-yet-strong in that sixty year old man kind of way. Diana saw his eyes crinkle up as he smiled again.

"Where are you flying to?" he asked, tapping his fingers against the seat in front of him.

"My brother's house in Charleston," she responded, twisting the bracelet on her wrist. It seemed they both had small ticks they did when they were nervous about making small talk. "He's asked me to visit and help him with... financial trouble." She hadn't been meaning to reveal so much that seemed pretty private when you're talking to a stranger on a plane, but the old man didn't seem to find it odd. Instead he just inclined his head to the right and said,

"Ah. Noble thing to do, help your brother." It took Diana a bit of time to respond to this. She hadn't been expecting that, just the usual cool, nice crap she got from strangers. 

"I suppose. We're twins, actually. I've kind of been helping him since birth." She had meant this as a joke, but it didn't seem to resonate that way with the man. He dropped his eyes to his lap and then back out the window again, as if he was trying to decide what to say. He moistened his lips and then shut his mouth again, which Diana found interestingly mysterious. 

"We will be landing in five minutes. Please make sure your seatbelts are secured and your tray tables are up," came the captain's voice from the speakers around the plane. Diana picked up her bag of chips and flipped up her tray table, shaking the salty potato crumbs from the bottom of the bag into her hand. She sprinkled them into her mouth, enjoying the salty fried taste on her tongue. The man sitting next to her smiled again, his blue eyes suddenly looking sadder than they had before.

"Nothing like potato chips to brighten a day, eh?" he said, a slight chuckle in his voice. Diana smiled back, but she didn't really understand this comment. They had been discussing brothers, not potato chips. The man spoke again.

"I've got a brother too, somewhere in the south. We used to bicker all the time back in Oklahoma." So that was his accent. "When he moved away, we never got the chance to speak again, or even fight..." His voice faded back to deep in his throat. "Well, it's rusty history now. Anyway, if you see a man named -" his voice was cut off by the sound of the plane descending and the wheels hitting the runway. Diana cocked an ear toward him, but he waved it away. He seemed to have lost his morale. 

When the seatbelt sign clicked off, they both stood up and grabbed their luggage. 

"Be nice to each other," said the man, with a twinkle in his eye. "Siblings are the best friends you're ever gonna get. Share your potato chips, okay?"

"Will do," said Diana, quirking her mouth up. 

"Well, say hello to your brother for me, Diana," said the man, and walked off with a slight limp but still a spring in his step. For a moment, the air seemd charged with electricty, like the burning plate to cook potato chips. Diana fell back in her seat, stunned. When had she told him her name...?
About the Author: NiñaEstrella
“If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” ― Oscar Wilde