Late boarding, and you come running onto the plane just before the door’s closed. Panting and sweaty you push your way down the aisle of the crowded cabin, looking for that one last overhead bin that miraculously still has room for your bag. That’s when you look down and see that son of a bitch’s face staring up at you from seat 17 C.
“You never were the most punctual,” he says. “Didn’t get that from me.”
Your mother kicked him out eleven years ago when you were a teenager, and you spent a few years hating her for it. Then you were old enough to understand his philandering ways and you hated yourself for giving her a hard time, which in turn made you hate him so much more.
The guy sitting next to your dad asks if you two know each other and he says, “She’s my daughter.”
“Was,” you mutter, apparently not loud enough to hear because when you take your seat in the next row, the seatmate asks, “You two want to sit together?”
“God no,” you say.
“It’s going to be a bumpy ride,” your dad says, laughing lightly, trying to bring the seatmate over to his side.
“Family,” the seatmate says, responding to your dad with a chuckle and a shrug.
You lean forward, shove your face in between their headrests and say, “He cheated on my mother with five different women, carried on long-lasting affairs with them, going so far as to put one up in her own apartment, which of course put a strain on our family’s finances so my mother was forced to take a job at a department store.”
You sit back in your seat. Your dad tries to chuckle but the seatmate isn’t having it.
The seatmate glares at your dad, then he shoves his face in between the headrests to address you.
“I’m sorry,” he says.
“This is the first time I’ve seen him in years,” you say.
The seatmate looks down at your dad, then back at you.
“We could throw him off the plane,” he says. “I mean, when we’re in the air.”
“Hey!” your dad says.
“That sounds like a plan,” you say.
“Right after they turn off the seatbelts fastened sign?”
“What the hell?” your dad says.
“Wait until we get above Cleveland,” you say. “He always hated Cleveland.”
“Cleveland it is,” your dad’s seatmate says. “What is your name?”
You tell him. Your seatmate, a tall man weighing at least 300 pounds, eventually agrees to switch with your dad’s seatmate.
The two of you spend the rest of the flight talking non-stop. You open up to him, completely. Forcing your lonely, much-sadder-and-older-looking father to learn about the details of your life by eavesdropping on your flirtations with a strange man gives you a delicious, spiteful pleasure. In trying to hurt your father, you happily hand your heart to this stranger, and he happily accepts it.
By the end of the flight, you look into his eyes and you know you’ve already fallen in love. When your father gets up to retrieve his bags, you try to look into his eyes, but he averts them before you can see the hurt you put there.
Happy You And Your Estranged Dad Are On The Same Flight Day!