Monday, December 24, 2012
The girl sitting by the aisle was overflowing with curiosity. She leaned her little body over the armrest to watch the male airplane attendant talk about the emergency procedure. I made eye contact with her. She pursed her lips habitually and I imitated the small movement. She perceived what I was doing immediately, though she still looked at me with a bit of caution. She made another habitual shift of her face and I imitated that one as well. She started to smile, now consciously moving her eyebrows and lips and eyes. Each time she did something I imitated it as best I could. She laughed each time I wiggled my forehead or pursed my lips, when she burst into a brilliant smile, I would laugh as well.
I took the notebook and pen from my large purse and started drawing. I let my hand move, creating swirling psychedelic doodles quickly that shifted across the small lined page. I tore the drawing from the notebook and reached across the narrow carpeted aisle. She opened her hand instinctively. As she saw what was there, her face brightened like a sun moving across a cloudy sky, instantly lighting the world. She seemed to inhale the pen strokes and then without a second thought, held it up for her cousin to see. He looked through it like water, like there was no paper in front of him with a succession of dots and lines and liquidy flow. His disinterest struck me, it had such an absence of curiosity and interest and I wondered if we all eventually became a muted surface which nothing could touch.
She looked back and me and smiled. She held up the drawing for her twin to see. Immediately I started working on another doodle, intending it for her sister. When I looked back at them, the girls had taken out their little notebooks and were drawing. The girl by the window drew on the back of the doodle I had just made. Every now and then she turned it over to look at what had come through my hand onto the page.
When I was finished with the second drawing I handed it to the girl closest to me. She opened her hand and accepted it, but didn’t look at it. She tucked it under the notebook and continued drawing with intense focused attention. I worked on a third doodle.
The airline attendants came through the long, narrow aisle with their trays full of beverages and small packaged peanuts. When I was almost done with the drawing I could sense that the girl by the aisle was attempting to get my attention, we shared no language but I could feel her trying not to look at me in her shy childlike way. The quiet gestures summoned me. I turned towards her and she held the drawing up over her head and looked at it for a second before abruptly thrusting it towards me. A smile burst onto my face and she squirmed in her seat when she saw my excitement.
The drawing was of an airplane with bubbly clouds and human figures floating among them. I turned towards her and waited for her to look at me again. When she did, I nodded with a smile on my face and said, “I like it.” She cowered again and shrunk into her seat, smiling.
I worked on the third drawing and when I turned back, I saw that the older cousin had a glue stick in his hand. He helped the girls glue the doodles I had made into their notebooks. Since the girl by the window had drawn on the reverse side of the drawing I originally made, she had to choose which side to put the glue on. I saw them rolling the glue over the psychedelic swirls and dots.
Then the girl close to me fell asleep.