Not Like This

There are only a few words that are truly disgusting and should never be used under any circumstances; barring the obvious, politically incorrect ones.

Moist. Clinging. Leech. Secretion. Mucus-y. That last one might not be a word.

Sticky is not one of them. In certain circumstances, sticky things are pleasant. Taffy in your mouth, glueing your teeth together, as an example. There were always huge bags of tacky candy and marshmallows hidden around his basement, haphazardly thrown where his parents thought the kids couldn’t get at them. Sugary pillows.

Airport bars, the actual wooden parts of the bars, are also sticky, and not in a good way. The coasters don’t slide down them, and the only body part Stanley was willing to gingerly place thereupon were his elbows, which either had very few or no nerve endings. Stanley wished his brain were the same.

Either way, the stickiness, the delayed flight, and the unfairly attractive man sitting next to him; all were the combined reason that Stanley was on his second drink of whiskey, even though he knew that when he inevitably fell asleep on the plane he’d probably get nightmares about it crashing or something, and it would be terrible if it crashed, and he knew it was always a possibility despite being ridiculously slim, he had taken a stat course at uni, but-

Deep breath in, deep breath out; blink twice and swirl the heavy glass. He put his hand on the bar to steady himself and immediately removed it, hissing crossly. It was still sore from when he’d literally crashed into his barstool neighbor.  

“Awfully sticky, isn’t it?” Said the man sitting next to him.  It was probably illegal to have hair like that in an airport, where sweat and grime and strange, vaguely ketchup-looking stains run rampant.

“I suppose.” Stanley replied, then switched to lying on the right side of his face. He was making a valiant effort to forget how grossly sticky his arms were feeling right now. It was like he’d dipped them in a vat of gum that had been discarded on a sidewalk for several hours, just long enough to become grey and gross but not yet hard. He was also making a valiant effort not to think about how nice the freckles across the man’s nose were, or how he had one tiny gold earring in his left ear.

Neither of these efforts were particularly successful. He most definitely was not turning away from the man in hopes that he’d notice the rainbow Pride button on Stanley’s backpack, because Stanley most definitely was not a man of infinite hope.

“You know,” said the man. “You have really lovely eyes.”

Perhaps he’d noticed the pride button. Perhaps he had a keen sense. Perhaps he was just being nice. Perhaps he was equally annoyed as Stanley was about the stickiness of the bar, which certainly seem possible, and was trying to cheer Stanley up. But Stanley thought of none of these possibilities, he simply turned back to facing towards the man, and said:
“You have really fluffy hair.” He could feel his eyes grow sort of watery and acidic as he blinked. A headache was coming, definitely. It was probably the whiskey. With a sigh, he dragged himself into a sitting position and ordered a glass of water from the bartender. She glanced between the two and nodded.

“I’ll take one too.” Added the man. Then, to Stanley. “I’m Phillip. With two Ls, two Ps, and two Is.”

“Stanley. Stan. Stanley.”

“Well, which is it?” The man’s eyes were sparkling. His lips were the lightest of pinks. He shook Stanley’s hand.
“Stanley, I suppose. I recently decided that Stan sounded far too middle-aged for me. Why two Ls?”

“Fair enough. And, to make the H feel lonely — the only single one in the crowd.”

“Not the only single one in this crowd, I can tell you that.”
Phillip, with two Ls, two Ps, and two Is, raised an eyebrow at that.

Their drinks arrived. There was the football game playing. A player threw the oblong ball, another one caught it, he was subsequently tackled, and some fans cheered. There was a huge guffaw from a nearby table which appeared to contain solely red-faced, 50-and-older males, with the exception of one woman who was tiny and thin and frail-looking. Both Stanley and Phillip were oddly enraptured by this euphoric group.

“That was a nice play.” Stanley said, knowingly. He quickly took a sip of water.

“Oh,” Said Phillip. “I know nothing of football.”

“Thank. God.” Stanley relaxed. “Neither do I.”

“So where you headed, Stanley?” Phillip asked, in true airport-acquaintance fashion. His hair was wavy and brown, and stuck up but was long enough that it flopped down in his face. He looked like a Tommy Hilfiger model. There were sunglasses tucked into his back pocket, and mint gum shoved into the water bottle pouch on the side of his backpack.

“I, uhm, well I was heading to San Francisco for their Pride celebration and to visit my cousin, but then my flight was delayed, and might even be cancelled. Some kind of storm moving in I guess.”

“Pride, huh? Well I’d say that’s too bad, but I suppose it’s a good thing for me.” Phillip smirked as he sipped his water. Stanley blushed slightly, though he wasn’t sure he entirely knew why. He also sipped his water.

“You know,” Phillip placed his glass carefully back on the coaster and slid his finger around the rim. “They say that people mimic the mannerisms of those they’re attracted to.”

Stanley glanced at his glass and very pointedly placed it on the coaster, and moved to place his finger on the rim, his eye clenching as he was about to wink — possibly the most suggestive move he’d ever been prepared to make in his life — when the loudspeaker came on.


As soon as the loudspeaker had finished and the football game resumed, Stanley and Phillip turned to each other.

“That’s my flight.” They both exclaimed. Phillip continued. “Quick — put your number in this. Maybe I can come up to SanFran for a bit, to spend Pride with you.”
He shoved an Iphone into Stanley’s hands. Glancing at the door, Stanley punched his phone number in, and his email address. Best to be prepared.

“See you later, Phillip.” Stanley whispered. The moment was fleeting. He’d forgotten the stickiness.

“I hope we crash into each again, Stanley.” Phillip winked, ran his hand through his hair, and tucked a black sharpie behind his ear. He strode out of the bar. Stanley left by the other exit.


It’s a window seat in an Emergency Exit Row (just for extra legroom, of course). The flight attendant has the same hair as Phillip. Once the safety tutorial has ended, and the wheels of the landing gear have left the ground, Stanley falls asleep.

It’s 2 hours into flight 815 when the captain turns on the fasten seatbelt sign.

It’s 2 hours 3 minutes when the turbulence hits.

It’s 2 hours 5 minutes when there’s a strange noise over the intercom, but no message from the captain. The turbulence hasn’t stopped.

It’s 2 hours 15 minutes when the right wing, just outside Stanley’s window, intercepts the left wing of another plane. The resulting imbalance causes the two planes to spiral toward each other, and just before they begin to crash in earnest, Stanley’s window is cracked by the impact against a different window. There’s a message scrawled on a blue United barf bag in black sharpie. When Stanley closes his eyes as the window smashes in, the air a roar in his ears as cabin pressure drops, the words are imprinted on the inside of his eyelids. It said:


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