The Languishing Unwritten Story

The last time I was on a plane, I finished reading First Person Singular by Haruki Murakami. It left me feeling light. The stories themselves felt unapologetically unsophisticated; I wanted to find meaning in the short stories that I’ve come to believe simply isn’t there. The stories in the book are simply that, stories. And, they’re wonderful.

Inspired, I began to believe that if Murakami can make it as a writer, so can I. I thought carefully about all of the parallels between his writing style and mine. The dream of publishing a book one day, of my very own, felt attainable.

Gleeful, I turned to the woman sitting next to me and asked if she had heard of Murakami. She hadn’t. I explained that I was asking because I was curious if he reads the same in Japanese as he does in English. She informed me that she is Korean. I asked if the two languages are similar.

A bit bruised by my stereotyping racism, I moved my elbow off of the shared armrest and pushed myself further into my seat. The aisle seat is not an easy place to hide away in.

As I sat there, slightly abashed, I started to look around, in search of something else to do. I decided to go to the lavatory to stretch my legs and relieve some pressure. The drinks cart starting coming up the aisle just as I turned out of my seat and stepped into the aisle. I sat back down and waited.

After I had finished my drink and insufficient snack of salted pretzels, and after the drinks cart had completed its trip down the aisle, I stood up again and made my way to the lavatory. I waited in the aisle, at the back of the plane, until it was my turn. As soon as I closed the folding door, I pulled my mask off and took a few uninhibited breaths.

I can never decide whether to sit on the toilet or stand in front of it when I’m in the lavatory on a plane and need a pee. Turbulence is unpredictable and can shake up an otherwise steady stream. I took my chances, stood, and pissed without spilling.

As I was washing my hands, I read a sign that I’ve read several times before. It’s the one about wiping down the counter for the next passenger. Only, this time it read differently.

This time, it fit in with a story I had been making notes on as I watched it unfold around me on the plane. It’s a story about events that are ordinary and often overlooked. It highlights how the order in which the events take place matters. But, all told, it’s mundane and routine.

At least that’s how I think it’s going to turn out, the story will, when I finally get around to writing it.

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