During the flight we hit the top of a thunderstorm and rode its lumped spine. The plane racked and shook, dropped, rattled, and climbed unsteadily up again.The boy next to me went stiff. The skin over his jaw tightened until it was waxen. He raised his hands under his translucent chin, he twisted his fingers together and I heard him say something to Jesus. His long thin legs tensed, rising so that his bony knees knotted under the khaki fabric of his jeans. The fabric was thick, military style. He craned his neck and tried to look between the other passenger's skulls. He wanted to see out the window, to calculate how far he thought he was going to fall, to plan his last seconds in his whispered prayer to his savior. We were in the rear of the plane and he couldn’t see out the window because our row didn't have one. The windows ran out before they reached us. I slid my right hand over my lap and felt its weight leave my thigh.

His breathing was shallow, little gasps, little prayers. His embarrassment was a fine dusting of white sugar over his sticky fear. His fingers tented, pushing on one another in a sharp triangle, his nails turning plum. I watched him breathing as my hand slid up his forearm, over the fleece of his navy blue jumper. My elbow buckled sharply, my palm curved at the back of his arm. I pushed my uneven nails into the darkest creases of his jumper and slid my fingers between his bicep and his chest. My knuckles dovetailed his ribs as he pressed his arm against my hand. I stayed sandwiched there, in the warmest crook of his tall mans body. His heat ran through us and we were stuck together, the hairs on his arms stood straight like rows of soldiers. He bound us as one body with all of the energy that he had no place for. We sat for seconds, minutes. We lived a whole part of our lives together as strangers as intimate as lovers.

The plane shook less and less violently, chatter started to tap like rain. The boy's knees softened leaving two small, puffy mountains of khaki against the back of the seat in front. The plane hit the black-grey ground. I pulled my hand softly away and he let it drop. I exhaled gently near his shoulder and he heaved the borrowed air out of his lungs, his exhaustion pressed his head down to his lap. I stood and walked down the aisle without him.