A woman in a pink kurta settles in the seat next to mine, stirs, and stretches her legs.

My writhing desire for a hunk occupying a space this close is now crushed. Standing right before me in the boarding queue, when he told someone on the phone that his seat had spacious legroom, my heart flipped with both a long and a high jump.

For the first time, I’d paid and chosen a seat and couldn’t believe my luck—him and I so close, our arms brushing… But I didn’t know fate would only feature a guest appearance. My neighbor rolls her eyes at the chocolate bar in my hand, my staple during travels.

I half-stand and crane my neck but don’t find the hunk anywhere. When I fully stand up in the rumbling plane, my head bumps into the luggage being stowed in the overhead carrier. The woman in pink shuffles and jabs an elbow into my thigh. She did it intentionally. I know because her googly eyes are still not at rest. I nearly lose my balance and drop the white chocolate bar.

Another loss of the day!

The woman in gaudy pink jerks as if induced with 240V current. My chocolate has landed near her silver-strapped feet in fragile slippers.

The only consolation for me is when I catch the hunk’s glimpse somewhere in the middle of the craft. Ah, so that’s what he meant by the best seat. A place near the emergency exit. I twist my lips and wedge between the woman in irritating pink and the snoring man next to my seat.

“Wouldn’t you take that chocolate of yours off the floor?” The way she singsongs yours, it sounds like a protest to a human’s right to eat a delightful sin. Anorexic bitch!

And do what? Shove in your face? I wanted to yell, but I nod with an angled neck and pick it up, call a stewardess, and bid adieu to the Swiss chocolate brought by a dear friend from Germany to India, especially for me.

I swipe my hands in tissues—crammed toilets frighten me more than a trembling plane—and settle back. With the tip of her pen, the woman in stabbing pink picks the yellow strap of my sling bag from her lap and slowly throws it to my side as if touching molten lava. Or did she consider it filth? Or a carrier of notorious germs? Maybe the latter—so says her snug mask. The only person on this flight still observing the precautions other than the crew. Must be a covirgin and adamant about staying that way. People like me who’ve been through three positive RT-PCRs between the shots and booster dose are seasoned players.

She buries her head in her laptop again while I… an unimportant human dilly-dallies her time with the downloaded episodes of The Rings of Power on her mobile.

After an air hostess notes instant noodles and frothy coffee as my preferred meal and mirrors my chuckle with a practiced grin, she turns to the next customer. The sophisticated neighbor requests black coffee without sugar and some salad in a silky voice. Why on earth would anyone eat bland salad on a flight? She surely hasn’t heard of happy journeys.

While I gobble up my noodles to the last strand and slurp away the leftover masala-laden soupy liquid with a swish, she winces and clears her throat. The parting steam of her untouched beverage sitting on her tray is dying now. With side glances, I steal a look at the email she’s drafting. It mentions an irksome bumpkin with a garish handbag and cheap chocolate.

The bits of that chocolate inside my belly roil, ready to purge their way out. It would’ve been fun to splash the molten white magma all over her, but only a belch escapes my mouth. “Oh, for God’s sake, where’s your etiquettes?” The scathing pink woman bang-shuts the laptop’s flap and scowls at me.

I stashed it in the overhead bin, I wish to blurt, care to fish it out for me? The plane rumbles again with the combined effect of the landing announcement, her scowl, and my irritation. So, I buckle myself, chug the last ounce of sugary coffee, and close my eyes, thankful that my erudite company will finally be departing.

At the conveyor belt, the pink stabby woman screams at the airport staff for her lost luggage. “Jade green in color; it contains my precious documents.” The sibilating C in precious reminds me of Gollum lusting over the One ring.

I run towards the tail end of the belt and snatch my trolly bag that’s about to vanish beyond my view. Through the square hole around the moving hoop, I see a nimbus of a toppled green bag on the floor on that side of the wall. I try to shove it out of sight, but the luggage is beyond my reach.

Someone imitates a cough—the hunk. I beckon him to zip his mouth. He nods, and I wink in return.

I won’t tell the pink, fuming woman about her lost property. Let her jump inside Mount Doom and dig for her precious.

Rashmi Agrawal is a freelance copywriter by profession and a software engineer by ex-profession. She often writes by a big window, looking at the greenery around. She thinks she writes to rest her imagination but actually ends up giving them wings. When she’s not writing, she’s listening to audiobooks and imagines publishing books that she drafts annually during NaNoWriMo. Her words are available in Bending Genres, Full House Literary, Alien Buddha, and others. Find her @thrivingwordss.