Uniform Lies

By Barbara Sweeney

You sit down next to a guy on a plane.  It’s early.  He’s handsome.  Costner-esque.  You’re a woman in her fifties who’d just as soon no one noticed since no one does anyway.  And you don’t want to talk to anyone because you said all you had to say to the TSA official at Logan who’d done a cavity search of your luggage which included seventeen red felt lobster hats.
But hey, you’re dressed for First Class.  A kind of uniform required by the airline when flying non-rev, a discount you enjoy because your brother’s a Captain.  You’re kind of classy-looking, actually, with the linen slacks and stiletto boots and the great haircut.  Big hoax, since you’d never pay for First Class on your own.  Big fat lie, since you have no money to speak of but loads of credit cards and a honking mortgage which you re-fi every twenty minutes or so to make ends meet.
The unthinkable happens.
“My name’s Jeremy,” says Costner, leaning over the console, exposing onyx cuff-links on his all-business, crisp white shirt.  Whoa.
You hear a woman’s voice saying your name.  It’s your voice.
Jeremy/Costner repeats your name.  He smiles.
“Sparkling or still?”  Mr. Cordial flight attendant leans in to take your order.
“Just regular, thanks.”  You feel noble when you drink water on airplanes.  Not the coffee you would kill for, the champagne, the Bloody Mary(s), the Coke.  Your scalp pricks with the tiny thrill of veering away from trouble.  Costner is drinking water.
“Are you from Boston,” he asks.  The engines start to whine.
“Just here for family business,” you say with a soupçon of dread.  Was he going to be a talker?  “Big wedding last night in Narragansett.  I’m pretty tired.”
“Well, you look lovely.”
In football, this would be an interception run all the way back for a touchdown.  You feel your estrogen-deprived bones softening.  Melting, actually.  This First Class guy has a pedigree pelt under that shirt…

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