Collie tapped my wrist. “Guy’s scoping your luggage,” he said. “Tuck it under your seat and he’ll go away.”
I readjusted myself. I didn’t realize I was drifting to sleep, hypnotised by the cadence of soft-soled footsteps and soft-shelled conversations. There were no further flight announcements. I refocused and noticed the man in question.
He was slender and well-dressed. Not a businessman – his splashy sunglasses were a little too post-modern, a little too aqua — but he wore dark pants with razor-sharp pleats, and an open-throated gray shirt with thin orange pinstripes. His dark hair was slicked back like a model for French stick deodorant. He didn’t look like he needed anything from my carry-on. My shabby underpants and socks would make him weep. He didn’t look like airport security. I might have reminded him of his grandfather; there could be no other connection other than a vague resemblance. Even falling down drunk, we would have been vomiting in different social circles. And yet he was staring at me. Not smiling, but studying. After a few moments, he walked away.
“Guess he didn’t want your Secret Formula X,” said Collie.
“Whatever’s in your bag. You don’t look like a secret agent.”
“I’m not.” A little colder than I intended. Everyone’s complaint.
“Hey, no biggie. He was seriously eyeballing you. Thought you should know.”
“Sorry. Didn’t figure I’d be stuck in an airport all night.”
“Know the feeling, man. I’ve been on a plane twice in my life. Not my cup of java, you know? I’m a back of the bus kinda guy. Planes….” He paused. “I like my planes on the ground.”
“Then you’re not going anywhere.”
“My point. I’d rather be sniffing airplane juice than tripping out to Kansas. Not that I’m, you know, a druggie. I can see how that might sound druggish.”
“I’m not up on the terminology.”
“That’s cool. No reason to be unless, you know, you’re carrying some crystal blue in your carry-on.” He grinned, and it seemed friendly enough.
“I don’t know what that means.”
“No problemo. Anyway, I see you’re trying to cop a quick nap. I’ll be on the alert, should Mister Tall Dark and Curious pay us another visit.” He lifted a fist and held it in at chest level.
I nodded at him slightly, now more awake than before.
Collie didn’t lose the grin. He turned his attention back to the pedestrian flow, readjusted his earplugs, and resumed the foot-tapping. In a few minutes, my eyes were closed and I was listening to the hum of the world.