BOS to CMHShe’s been sniffling quietly since she left her caretaker, a husky woman with a similarly uncoordinated shade of falsely blonde hair, back at the airport. It was unclear how they had both made it back to the gate, only to part ways before we boarded the tiny regional jet. Since then she’s been hunched over her tray table, carefully drawing a big-eyed anime face. Perhaps she received instructions on how to assemble those exaggerated features on an internet video, since she carefully plotted out a series of confident, then tenative crosses, erasing each furiously before finally rendering one that fit her interiorized specifications. Large eyes, small bow lips, and a retrousse nose were added, then topped off with a face-hugging bob, which has yet to be shaded. It is this blank space reserved for sketched in strands and waves which seems to be giving her the most trouble, as she shuffles from pencil to pencil in her elaborately worked zipper bag, seeking the right one.
Giving up, she has instead turned to imagining an overworked, unflattering outfit of oversized, high collared, science fictionish nehru jacket with buttons made out of ground-down circles carved into the paper. The clothes are drawn in quickly, and now she has gone on to reinforcing each line of this wide-eyed creature with a black rollerball, which is causing the expression to seem increasingly plaintive and medicated. Meanwhile, she keeps glancing over as I make notes of her movements in drippy red fountain pen, using my disheveled copy of Wonder Boys as a makeshift notebook. Wonder Boys, which I have taken with me on nearly every plane ride for the past six years, looks more like an overflowing school folder, rather than a book, stuffed full of boarding passes, luggage tags, scraps of receipts for water bottles and gum, and issue one of the 4-page zine Death by Dragonry, found abandoned on a sidewalk, which promises in its second issue the following things:
-Review of gay speed metal band Rainbolt’s new album, “Power Bottom.”
-Sex and You!: How to occupy the free time you’re spending not getting laid.
-Sobbing plea to Hollywood- “Please stop raping my childhood!”
Out of the corner of my eye, I see that our girl has chosen a yellow pencil to fill in the hair! It’s a lemony yellow, certainly more on the cyan end of yellow, similar to a blonde swimmer’s green hair. In comparing the shades of artist and drawing, I can’t help but note that they occupy polar ends of the yellow spectrum, with the artist’s hair ratcheted near the red end of my mental Photoshop slider. As she fills in the jacket with a rheumy purple, I start to wonder if this is some sort of attractive superhero version of herself.
The captain just came over the intercom: We’ll be landing in 12 minutes, which seems to aggravate our girl, who has grown frustrated with the proportions of her drawing. She flips the page, starts clean, and makes a quick angry sketch of a girl in a fishing hat.
We’re pulling in now, and the seatmate is stirring. Odd girl leaps on this opportunity to engage in a conversation about flying and how much she dislikes her stepdad. Seatmate nods politely, murmurs something about the holidays, and clearly wishes she had kept her eyes shut.
At the gate, our arteest scrawls a loopy signature on the bottom of her artwork, then hands it to seatmate. “It’s you,” she says. “Merry Christmas.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I catch the signature: Sara Stoettler. We went to high school together, and freshman year foundation art she drew a portrait of me with cat ears and a tail. I’m glad to know she lost the coke-bottle glasses, but I definitely don’t want to have this conversation. It’s time to close up shop and escape.