She was well groomed. Her scarf rested on her shoulder in just the right shade of teal to match her purse. She sat calmly, across and down two seats from me and as I wondered if we would be taking the same flight, she lifted a blue and gold pen a little above her lap and started clicking it at me. She held it like one might hold a small missile or a cigarillo.
I was chewing gum and soon noticed that the woman was synchronizing her pen clicking with my gum chewing. The question of whether she was attempting to communicate or mock, filled me with curiosity and strange anxiety. If I stopped chewing, she, in an impatient spurt of clicking, would point her pen at me and continue clicking until my anxiety pushed me to chew.
I wouldn’t look in her direction, couldn’t let her know how easily she controlled me. Even when I tongued my gum from one side to the other, which made me skip a beat, she would pause and then, just when my teeth would touch together again, click, click, click, the pen would join my movement.
I don’t know how long it kept on. I was locked. She had been playing me so tightly, so intensely, that it could not go on; my jaws were aching, my teeth strangely sharp.
I lifted a tissue close to my mouth and she, sensing my intent, clicked so wildly I thought I might give in. I let the gum drop into the tissue. It was wet and warm, marked with the echo of where my teeth had been. I folded the tissue around the soft little ball and mashed it carefully making sure it was covered with paper, and then slipped the wad into my purse.
Everything sounded like a heart beat, far off, fading into quiet. The clicking abated and I looked straight at her. She sat waiting, wet eyes shining, her blue and golden pen aimed at me. Fumbling, with fingers unfastening from my will, I unwrapped a fresh stick of gum.
Bonnie Bostrom has been writing since she mastered cursive. She has published
seven books, The Way Showers, Women Facing Retirement: A Time For Self-
Reflection, Quicksilver Dreams, Buddha Nature of The Southwest, Born Crazy and
Love, Always Love. Born Crazy received an Eric Hoffer Finalist Award. She lives in