A nod towards the empty chair in the middle is the only response I get.
My request triggers an unintelligible wave of moaning and groaning. The meaning is clear: can I please disappear from this earth. As of now.
Then the woman gives in and starts her theatrics: arduously rearranging her seriously oversized hand luggage, unclicking her seat belt, settling back into her seat, rolling her eyeballs in despair, sighing, more moaning and groaning.
Finally we both sit down. I’m ready for a long and silent flight.
At regular intervals she breaks the silence, mumbling in an unfriendly tone.
But the mumbling fades ever more, and totally disappears as the engines rev up to catapult us into the air.
From aside I see her eyes lock onto nothingness as she goes into a complete freeze.
I hesitate for a moment, but then I extend my arm forward into her sight. I open my mouth to say something, but she has already clutched my arm and hand tightly, as if she was in a judo competition.
Every now and then I tell her what is happening and what can be seen outside. Not that she seems to hear or understand any of it.
Once we pass through the clouds and the turbulence, she lets go of my hand. A pair of eyes gently meet mine, and she makes a friendly comment.
Until the descent to Schiphol we sit next to each other in silence.
A different silence.