Manch­ester to Lis­bon

The Walrus - - ARTS & CULTURE - By Me­gan Fer­nan­des

In seat 15B, she is be­gin­ning to pray in Por­tuguese. Her small hands fold over a bright-pink gos­sip mag­a­zine with im­per­fect bub­bles: cel­lulite, hair weaves, and some­thing about Mrs. Clooney. We are both ner­vous fly­ers, but I tell her it’s okay, my mother was a flight at­ten­dant for Saudi Ara­bian Air­lines back in the day, and I know all the signs of what could go wrong. The tight cof­fee lip of the host­ess, the rush for the jump seat, the stuck chok­ing sound of jammed land­ing gear. The woman doesn’t quite un­der­stand, but takes my swollen, bruised hand like ginger and holds it in hers. We pray un­til the shak­ing metal sinks into a soft cruise. I am sur­prised to dis­cover later that the man sit­ting in 15A is her hus­band. I won­der at his in­dif­fer­ence to her ra­bid ad­dress. I won­der why she chose my hand, an un­be­liever, a fallen woman with at least six Band-aids cover­ing wounds from an un­con­trolled night. My mother once had to slap her col­league out of hys­ter­ics when fly­ing over Doha. There is noth­ing we can do, she snapped. So like her.

The calm, shrewd vi­o­lence. The cru­el­ness that could keep you alive.

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