He sat in seat 29A and her in 28A. The plane began to quiver, the cabin darkened, and the crew rushed to their seats. Minutes after, they were twelve thousand kilometres in the air.
She propped her elbow on the window and looked at the lights that stippled the city. She traced the glass with her finger, trying to pinpoint her home, but she couldn’t find it.
He closed the window panel and glanced at his watch. Three hours and fifteen minutes until he would land. Three hours and fourteen. Three hours and thirteen.
If they had been seated next to each other, this was what would have happened.
They would introduce themselves. Hi, she would say, and he would reply, sorry, I get nervous on planes. During landing, she would reassure him of his survival, and he found comfort in her voice. Then she would miss the airport shuttle home, and he would drive her back since they lived not far from one another. She would leave her number with him, and after four days he would call her, asking to go out for a coffee even though he hated coffee. She would say yes, and he would watch the way she handled the cup and how her fingers curled around the spoon, and he would fall in love. Not straight away, but the more she laughed and sipped. She started to love him, too. He was funny, and she never found anyone worthy of laughing for.
One day, when he tripped and fell flat on his face, she laughed, and he would ask her—bleeding nose and all—if she would marry him. She would say yes because this man had something in him that she wanted to keep for herself. She wore grey at her wedding with Debussy’s Reverie walking her down the aisle.
They would have three children and a miscarriage. They would bury the fourth almost-child in the back garden and celebrate its should-be birthday every year. Their children would grow old, as would they, and raise their own families. And although they would never tell their children, their favourite was the youngest.
The two would live until 76. She would be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and pass not long after. He would not attend the funeral. It was too much, he would say, I might just jump in that ditch with her. But on the eve of his birthday, God would grant his last request; to meet her again and never part.
But today, she looked out the window at the forest of skyscrapers as he fell asleep behind her, in a steel capsule hurtling through the stratosphere, oblivious to what could be.