Tuesday, November 29, 2005

"Mr. Barbicane Takes A Trip" Chapter Eight

Later, Mr. Barbicane was awakened from a mercifully dreamless sleep by a shudder running through the length of the aircraft. He looked out the window and saw that the clouds had grown darker as he crossed the country. There was a mechanical tone amplified over the public address system and the FASTEN SEAT BELTS light was illuminated. A moment later one of the cabin attendants came on the address system to inform the passengers that it was the captain who turned on the light and this was because of unstable weather conditions developing ahead of them.

Mr. Barbicane sighed and looked down. Both his tray table and the tray table of the woman next to him were in their closed and locked position so he could once again see her legs. He could also see a length of white wire running from the iPod clipped to the belt of her shorts, snaking across her thigh then leading up along her chest. She was listening to music. Mr. Barbicane thought this might be a good opportunity to try to look at her, to see if he could hold her features in focus.

Slowly, Mr. Barbicane turned and lifted his head, his eyes following the white string of the earbud chord as it split just above the young woman’s cleavage. He continued to trace the wire closest to him as it climbed toward her face. First he saw her chin and her throat. He could even detect the pulse thrumming through the veins in her neck. Her jaw led him to the side of her head and to the beginning of her hair which was a dark red, streaked with something lighter, and pulled back and up away from her head in a ponytail secured with a loop of green fabric. A wisp of hair tendriled down at the side of her head with carefully designed carelessness. There were two earrings in the earlobe Mr. Barbicane could see. The lower was a dangling diamond shaped object, crusted with red and blue stones and looking not antique but like something that wanted to remind you of an antique. Above this was a simple diamond stud. Her eyes were closed as she listened to the music delivered almost directly to her brain by the tiny speakers inserted in her ears. Her nose was correctly proportioned and had apparently undergone no surgical alteration. He could see the side of her mouth. Her lips were tinted a faint reddish brown sort of color. She was young. Early twenties he guessed, but he was very bad at that sort of thing. Certainly the face he saw was smooth and even, not overly made up, not pulled tight behind the ears.

As Mr. Barbicane watched, the young woman’s lips came apart, her jaw dropping slightly. He imagined he could almost hear the moist snap of the lips separating, but knew that would be impossible. The young woman had fallen asleep listening to her music.

The plane bounced again, but the motion did not wake the young woman. Rather it merely served to lull her head downward and slightly toward Mr. Barbicane. He looked at the sleeping woman and was very happy to see that the elements of her face were in proper relation to each other and showed no signs of shifting or fading as he concentrated on them.

Her mouth remained open and the beam of her reading light caught a drop of saliva on one white lower front incisor creating a pin-point of light as bright as a star. Mr. Barbicane found he neither wanted to look away nor did he expect to find he was capable of looking away from the small point of light set between the young woman’s lips even if he tried.

He knew she could wake up at any moment and find him looking at her face, at her mouth in particular, but still he would not or could not look away. And, with each passing second, as the likelihood of her waking and seeing him looking at her grew, an unfamiliar and giddy sense of excitement blossomed in Mr. Barbicane’s heart. He’d never experienced anything like it. It seemed wicked for some reason, but, if pressed, he could not say why it seemed so wicked. And it seemed terrible forward of him. Worse than forward: Bold.

To continue looking was folly, unquestionable folly. But still he looked and still the bubble of wicked pleasure nervously grew to fill his chest.

He began to bargain with himself. I will look until the star goes out, he thought. He would continue to look at her face, at the skin covering her eyes, at the thin brows like the narrow wings of some impossibly small seabird, until she closed her mouth or moved or something else happened to disturb the arrangement that caused the light to shiny from her tooth. If she woke and saw him, it was out of his hands.

Her chest rose and fell gently, moving the wires of her earbuds, and Mr. Barbicane wondered what music was playing to entertain her sleeping mind.


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