Flight attendants offer a choice of tea or coffee to those passengers who have awoken, though many have chosen to stay asleep. A few have risen from their seats to stretch their legs as the flight nears its destination. One of them is pushing against the bulkhead at the rear of the cabin like he's trying to move it out of his way. He is also observing his fellow passengers. Right now he's watching a family of Americans in the adjacent center row.
Mother and son are asleep in the middle, father and daughter are in the aisle seats with books in their hands. The father has the unmistakable bearing of a military man, possibly retired. Possibly not. He is reading a weighty hardback, tattered and frayed at the edges, its cover black and crinkled, its pages brittle and flecked with dark stains. The coarsely typed text is in an unfamiliar script - arabic perhaps? He holds the book in one hand and with the other he traces the lines with his fingertip as he reads them. His eyes scan the pages as if he is searching for a code. Perhaps, after all, that is what he is doing. Occasionally he reaches for the plastic cup of water sitting on his tray table, but nothing distracts him from his reading. The daughter is writing in a slim volume with a smooth, shiny, jet-black cover on which is written a single word in plain white. We can not quite make out what it says - it seems to start with a "D". The pages are crisp and the text is not in typeface but in neat and fluent handwriting. She is wearing a well-worn and faded red hoodie, its hood pulled over her head, so we can not see her face as she bends over her book. After a while she picks up a pen and adds another line of text to the page, then puts down the pen. Perhaps it is her Diary. Perhaps it is not.
On the other side of the aisle a Japanese couple are watching a movie playing on their laptop. They share a headphone set, their heads close together, one ear listening, the other transducing. They bob their heads from side to side in unison, to the rhythm of music. On the screen a large group of men and women, clad in bright and varied colors, dance atop a moving train. The leading dancer, who also seems to singing, though we can not of course hear the soundtrack, leaps forward onto a new carriage, taunting the camera. The observer inclines his head, raises one eyebrow and half smiles. It's a look that suggests he recognizes the leaping actor but can not quite match the face to a name.
In front of the Japanese couple sits a woman wearing a tight powder-blue sweater, generously filled and topped at the shoulders with bouncing blond hair. She is talking to the passenger by her side, thin and athletic, his skin darkly tanned, his hair closely cropped. From his demeanor and movements it appears that he neither knows his neighbor nor wishes to hear what she has to say. Nonetheless, the woman continues to talk, often gently and creatively gesturing with her hands. It seems she is trying to explain a complex or abstract concept to her neighbor, who, in spite of her efforts, still could not care less.
On the other side of the aisle sits a young man, no doubt hailing from somewhere in the South-Eastern corner of Asia. On his tray table lies a small stack of medical books; anatomy and physiology distilled to their base concepts for medical school preparation. The stack serves as a useful rest for his forearms - radius and ulna bones, radial and ulnar arteries and nerves, flexor and extensor muscles - as he plays his Gameboy. To his left sits a curiously rotund fellow, his ears looking more like......
- It's Shah Rukh Khan. The girl in the red hoodie looks up through jade green eyes at our observer, her expression resolute yet questioning. Shocks of golden hair peek through the sides of the hood.
- Uhmmm, excuse me? replies the writer, somewhat taken aback.
- The guy singing and dancing on top of the train - it's Shah Rukh Khan.
- Yes, yes, so it is. I should have known that.
- Well, you did know that, it just slipped from your mind for a while there.
- Yes, yes. Indeed, indeed.
- And it's the Quran.
- What is?
- The book my Dad is reading - you were curious to know what he's reading.
- Oh, oh. I suppose my curiosity will land me in deep water sometime!
- Let's hope it's not today, huh? And to make the point, she glances downward.
- Yes, indeed, let's hope not! So your father can read arabic?
- Yes he can. He reads it all the time these days - the Quran that is.
- I see. Very admirable, I'd say. And he does say.
- Not really, you see its too late. Its really much, much too late. And with that, the girl returns to her slim black book, pen poised above a new, blank page.