"Excuse me sirpardon me sir." Sharon gently shook the apparently snoozing passenger. David jerked awake and pulled the headphone away from his left ear, James Taylor poured out "winter, spring, summer or fall" in muted tiny tones. "Yes?" he raised his eyebrows.
"I understand you are one of the chaperones? My, and I thought you were one of the kids." Sharon beamed widely as she service flirted.
"Yes I am a chaperone, and thank you-it's all from the milk drinking. Is something wrong?" David mentally prepared to chastise the four new freshman thespians sitting a few rows behind.
"Well one of your young ladies has taken ill, we've given her another airsickness bag, a little ginger ale and some crackers but you might want to check on her yourself." Sharon replied.
"Oh? Eew another airsickness bag. Ok well here's where I earn my four figure salary. I'll go and check on her." David exhaled relief; dealing with a little throw-up was going to be far easier than corralling newly adolescent, melodramatic pony boys at 30,000 feet. He unbuckled, stood, and ran a hand through his purposely untidy, sand-speckled hair. He made his way back several rows to check on the ailing student. "Rosie you gonna live? You get all of that evil out of your body huh?" he poured on older brotherly bedside manor.
"I think I'll live" she groaned, there were tiny bits of regurgitated food in the corners of her mouth, and her breath was polluted. David was repulsed, but he held his composure.
"Here sweetie wipe your face, you're blowing your chances with the cute European boys in the next row over." David sang. The green-gilled girl simply leaned forward obscuring her face into the airsick bag. David pulled her hair back and held it in place. When she finished heaving he rubbed large soothing circles on her back. "That should be it then. You can't have anything else in that teeny little stomach. Why don't you drink a little ginger ale and lean back. Then when you're feeling better go the restroom and put a little water on your face. I'll come back in a little bit." He rubbed a few more large circles and handed her the cup of soda. Then he made his way back to his seat and the classic folk CD still playing there.
"Oh my god, David have you seen this? This is so cool." Lea's expressive freckle-face was beaming, her eyes dancing with enthusiasm. David sighed, he hadn't even settled back in his seat all the way. He pulled the right earphone away to hear what all the percolating in the next seat was about. "What now? Seen what? Whatever it is, it better be good I was really planning on resuming my nap."
"They've got K-Pax on the in-flight movie! Can you stand it?" she high squealed.
"My heavens K-Pax? Clutch the pearls!" David chuckled as he mocked. "No that is actually pretty cool, Kevin Spacey right? I wanted to check that one out in the theater." He resigned sleep and pulled off the headphones completely.
"Oh my god how could you have missed it? How can you ever miss a Kevin Spacey movie? Simply put, Kevin Spacey is God. I'd watch him read the newspaper." Lea was highly animated and effervescing all over her seat.
"Yeah Kevin Spacey is a pretty amazing actor, he does always deliver. You know what I've always thought? He always sorta reminds me of Gene Hackman kind of. You know the classic everyman-very ordinary but, gifted in a way that makes his ordinariness an asset. I love that about both of them."
"Yeah same! He's so regular but like outstandingly regular. Ugh I get sick of those overrated prettyboy actors, like that gay blade Tom Cruise. So what's your favorite Spacey film?" Despite her exhilaration Lea yawned audibly and stretched her arms upward like a waking cat, exposing her alabaster stomach and jeweled butterfly navel ring. David fleetingly peeped her young woman's belly but then respectfully turned his head.
"Well I first discovered him in The Usual Suspects. I saw it in this art house theater in L.A. one summer. He really stole every scene. But you gotta love him in L.A. Confidential, and I just saw him in Pay it Forward on cable the other night, really amazing performance. It was just so honest."
"Ohmygod, yes! He's just so brilliant; I don't think I could even pick just one movie. I've loved him for different reasons every time I've seen him. He's just so versatile. But my real favorite has got to be American Beauty; he is just awesome in that movie. I have watched it no less than twenty times." She affects a deadpan homage to Spacey's Lester Burnham, "I'll be dead in a year. Of course I don't know that yet. In a way, I'm dead already." She giggles at her own imitation.
"Well. I liked the film ok, but I just couldn't get past the whole lusting after his daughter's friend thing, that was just sick." David wrinkled his nose while shifting his body more toward the conversation.
"What!? You are so wrong. David, American Beauty is not about some Lolita love. I mean it's about a man yearning for his own youth, and trying to grasp some sort of respect and power in a soulless life and, then finding beauty in his otherwise blah suburbs. I mean the moment a man stops dreaming is the moment he like dies, I mean, you know petrifies inside you know? And Kevin played that on screen so flawlessly. Plus come on, David, men are programmed to look at young sexy women in short skirts. What difference does her age make if she's really hot, right? Isn't that what they taught you in man school?"
"Man School hmm? Well I didn't do so well in man school; I got a double D in Breast Lustology, and completely flunked Objectifying Female Minors. I did pretty well in Scratching, Spitting and Belching though. Wrote my thesis on Sunday toe digging on the sofa." He chortled, very self-amused.
"Oh whatever," she smirk-giggled, tossed a thickset, crinkled red lock behind her ear and continued, "Well, most normal men look at a hot girl regardless of her age, like you haven't checked out Brittany Spears' stripping on TV or all those sluts stumbling all round campus in their stripper heels. So yeah Lester's thoughts about Angela are, I guess, impure so to speak, but he's no more perverse than any other American male; he wants to do what men are programmed to do, with the most beautiful woman, of any age, he has ever seen. You can't fault him for that. Plus he has that moral turnaround in the end anyway." Lea leaned back in her seat, pulled her knees up to her chest and hugged them to herself and punctuated her statement by raising a taunting eyebrow at David.
"Well excuse me Sig-woman Freud. Taken some AP classes at Woman School have you?" he shifted again leaning more toward her and in the pause in conversation their eye contact lingered for an few uncomplicated seconds. "Well Professor, what about that that, what's her name, Maura Suvari? What about how she threw herself at him? Is that true to her programming as well?"
"Well sort of." Lea's voice was noticeably softer, less intellectual, more introspective.
"Really now, so does that mean you have a thing for say Dr. Berliner maybe? He's so hot, right?" David gave her a crooked smirk and his stomach twitched anxiously, though he didn't pause to analyze the sensation.
"Eeew gross! Dr. Berliner is like a hundred years old and smells like mothballs." She playfully smacked at his exposed lower arm. "Yuck, not quite, David. I do like older guys though, but I think the oldest I'll go is about 22 or 23; maybe 24 if he's like a grad student or something. Definitely have to be still in school." She was looking to the ceiling for the answers and apparently thinking aloud.
"24!? That seems a little old to me, not that you aren't an interesting person and all, but don't you think a 24 year old grad student could find a person a with a little more life's experience? I mean he's been through the whole college scene and all and you just graduated high school last May. What will you talk about how bad the freshman dorms are?" his taunt resonated through a now richer, deeper voice.
"Well in that case we both are still college students so it's not so different. And I've spent the last four years in a co-ed boarding school, David. We'd have more in common than you know. Plus I've lived an entire summer in Italy, I speak Italian and Portuguese and English. I'm a worldly young woman."
"Ok fine you aren't some freshman hick but still"
"And my last boyfriend was 21! We appreciated all the same music, and movies, we went hiking, had deep conversations by candlelight all that grown-up couple stuff." (She placed finger quotations around the words grown up.) "In fact I dumped him because he was acting too immature, and silly. Video games all weekend and then he just got all clingy and jealous; I hate that. I mean you're what, 30 something, and look how long we've been talking just now. You probably haven't thought once about how old I am have you? You really shouldn't underestimate me David." She leaned slightly forward gathered up the bulk of her weighty hair to the crown of her head, secured it with a purple scrunchie, then plopped back, puffing out a spent exhale.
"Well ok you have a point; I suppose between two college students it is all about maturity level, and you do seem to be extremely level headed for a 17 year old. But it still seems like if he's that old he still should be dating women closer to his own age. You know he's getting his first crappy apartment, and trying to get his career started, hanging out in bars. He's meeting women who are in a similar station in life; women he can take to the office Christmas party without raising eyebrows. Oh and for the record, I'm 29 by the way."
"And I'm eighteen, by the way, since September 12." Her eyes read intense; she felt slighted. "and why couldn't he take me to the office party? You think I'm some kind of ditz, don't you David. No really, you think that I'm some kind of goofy little girl."
"Wait no, n..not at all, that's not what I meant, really." He was stammering a bit and began busying his hands wrapping the headphone cord around his bright red CD player.
"I meant that you look young, and at some stuffy office party you might not really have anything towell I mean. Hhis boss asks you what you do for a living you'd have to say um"
"College student. His boss asks me what I do and I say I'm still working on my degree. I wouldn't twirl my pony tails or pop my bubble gum either. And then if he wants to talk global economy, or partisan politics, or even baseball I stand there and talk with him because I can." She fumed. "A..And why do you or his boss care anyway! I'm eighteen! Eighteen is the age of majority everywhere in the world. So I'm an adult just like he is. That's so American; they don't care about all this stuff in Europe I assure you." She raised her voice and eyebrows defiantly. Her mouth was pursed and she was almost panting through her nose.
"Ok true, at eighteen you can vote and join the army, buy cigarettes, buy booze in Europe and"
"Keep my 24 year old grad student boyfriend out of jail on statutory charges."
"Yet another really important point, indeed, touch." He nodded, crossed and uncrossed his arms and tried to smile the throbbing uneasiness away.
Lea sat upright and pulled the remote from her armrest and started pressing buttons, staring fixedly at the tiny screen in front of her, "So anyway you really should watch K-Pax, David. It's great, classic Kevin Spacey." Her eyes never left the blue screen, her voice a colorless monotone.
"Yeah I think I will check it out. You know, I do believe you've increased my admiration of Kevin Spacey. So how do you work this thing anyway? Is it the blue button that pulls up the menu?" He spoke brightly and smiled again trying to reengage her, but she already had her headphones on and was balling herself up under the smallish, navy blue airline blanket.
Anxiety curdled in his stomach, his face flushed heat. He leaned back in his seat and put on his headphones. He found himself glancing over at her every few moments, hoping to catch her eye, and then feeling silly guilt. He tried to rationalize. "Well she's wrong; all a 24 year old grad student wants is a fresh piece. And that guy's boss would know that is exactly what she was. This is just silly anyway it is all hypothetical. I didn't want to alienate her; I mean we will be working together for the next 6 days. I hate this. I don't want her mad at me. I mean she's a friend, who says she can't be my friend, she is a young adult." He glanced over at her again; her smallish, dark polished toes were peeking from beneath the plane blanket. His temples began to throb. Unconsciously his foot tapped in sync with his galloping heartbeat. He squinted hard and shook every thought out of his head, opened his eyes and attempted to concentrate on the tiny video screen in the headrest of the seat in front of him.
She glanced over at him purposely avoiding catching his eye then rolled hers. "Such an ass. He thinks he knows everything at fucking 29." She pulled the blanket over her chilly feet and snuggled herself. On the screen Kevin Spacey's Prot was mapping the orbit of K-Pax for some snobby astrologists. Kevin was playing the alien sort of naive but still kind of flippant. "Kevin is God. I mean look at how seamless he is, navet and arrogance at the same time, amazing! David isn't fit to stand in Kevin's shadow. I can't believe people think David is so hot, he's such an ass!" her thoughts boomed through her head nearly obscuring the movie dialogue in her headphones. She squeezed her eyes shut and clasped her hands tightly in front of her just beneath her chin. She took five deep meditative breaths with the aim of erasing David completely out of her thoughts. She opened her eyes to Kevin and Jeff Bridges talking, "I detect a note of skepticism Dr. Powell." Prot said. She thought about that for a second, indeed, skepticism. She watched intently, the Dr. and Prot were having a session and Kevin's deadpan delivery was flawless, never forced; so believable. After a few minutes she sighed audibly, felt contented, more at ease. Kevin Spacey always had a calming affect on her. Fuck David.