Empty Leather - Ashley Lynn Scheffler Bhasin

My seat is taken and I stand in the doorway staring. I always sit in the same seat. I know she sees me looking at her but I don’t make eye contact. I let her think I’m looking past her, as if I’m staring into the sky, at the planes and thinking about my trip.


I’m not.


Everyone thinks traveling is freeing and exciting. It sucks the life out of me. And each time I hear my boss tell another rambling consulting story I die more each day. He thinks he’s hilarious and educational; he’s a nitwit.


“Excuse me.”


I turn around to see a graying-haired man standing about a foot and a half shorter than me. He’s looking at me with expecting eyes. I oblige since I’m still standing here without a seat.


“Hi.”


“I’m catching my flight but have these coupons if you’d like to use them.”


I say thanks and take them without breaking eye contact. I don’t even ask him his name. By the time our exchange ends I look over to my seat and it’s free. It’s fully cluttered with food and drinks, but free. She knew.


I snatch it and wait for the lounge attendants to clean it up, not looking at them when they pass my way. I’ve made too much eye contact today as it is, and I’m getting snippy with my fiancée. I can feel it. He’s playing nice because he is nice. It’s making me bitchier.


The leather forms around me as I lay out my laptop and phone. I’m forever tethered in this line of work but the less and less I see my boss the more I cheer and cheer. Despite my feelings of loathing for the nitwit I am cocooned in this chair, in this lounge, in this life until I manifest the courage the leave waving the middle finger on the way out like only a good Catholic-raised woman would do. I’d wave it high both as a F-U, a peace offering and a show of solidarity for those that remain.


It’s not that the nitwit is fully incompetent. He is THE boss. He’s just an idiot all high and mighty without an ounce of respect due unto him.


My email is exploding so naturally I’m avoiding it.


The mystery girl comes back. She has flecks if auburn and mahogany in her brown hair and eyes I can’t define. They could be blue, or green gray. Do you know what green gray looks like in an iris? Her face looks empty but so is everyone else’s. The lounge has become a mix of men in expensive looking but cheap suits, young travelers giddy with a lounge pass and those in between that I can’t place and don’t spend nearly enough time trying to understand. I write them off as middle class or worse. I’m obviously wrong.


Sometimes I want to go back to Disney World and my first time on an airplane just to experience the excitement again. It existed once but no one was there to appreciate it.


Surely my parents were excited. They were there. Disney is a right of passage. You have to go at least once or have looks thrown your way.


“What do you mean you’ve never been?”


What they’re really saying is, ‘Oh, your family couldn’t afford it.’ And then they dart their eyes.


Thank god we went twice so I can fend off some of the prissy ones.


Mystery girl rooted herself at the bar but I can see her perfectly from this angle. The Louis Vuitton tote on her arm is old, but classic. It might even be monogrammed—so extra. The shoes are another story—trendy mules with some sort of embroidery on the front. It looks like a screw, and if it says ‘screw you’ I might fall in love with this woman. The wine level drops in her glass and I can’t tell how many she’s had. But I certainly know how many I’ve had. A lady never tells, but I’m just a woman.


My phone is on its final ring and it takes a monumental effort on my part to answer it.


“Do they have the chili today?”


“Oh,” I said disinterested.


Pause.


“What?” I said into the phone. You’re oblivious to the game I’m playing. I’ll have created her whole life by the time I rush for my flight.


“The nitwit is calling. I have to take it.”


“Oh.” Your voice dropped an octave as ice cracked through the phone, matching my tone exactly. Whisky on the rocks with a tiny splash of water. Next up would be TV in your spot on the sofa. It pissed me off and calmed me both in a way I never understood. Hate and love. Whisky and rocks. It’s a mind fuck.


“I’ll be home in 22 hours. Should we make stay in or go out?”


“I’ll go to the store. Wine too?” I could hear your voice picking up. It was simple and barely recognizable but I heard it. Anyone else would have missed it.


You hung up first and I smiled toward the mystery girl. Her barstool was empty and the Louis was gone.


Hopefully she didn’t miss the 10:12 p.m. flight.

Ashley Lynn Scheffler Bhasin is an emerging writer based in Pennsylvania. She is a graduate of Lehigh University and The Pennsylvania State University. Her writing has been published or is forthcoming in Dime Show Review, Sonder Midwest and Abstract Magazine.

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