The plane's tight: tight seats, thin air, narrow aisle, narrow folks, pinched faces and Bud.
Bud's wedged into row 21, seat B.
It's an hour before midnight with little hope of finding Chicago through the squeeze of ice and wind without the wings flailing hard enough to make every soul on that jet pray they've done enough good to make a difference in the eyes of a wrathful God. Everyone's preparing. The silence says so. Everyone except for the woman in row 20, seat A. She's not worried. She's done with God, done with good, done with it all - she's all done.
"What!" She shrieks at her husband, "What is it! What! Tell me! What!?" Her voice is hateful. She's putting every ounce of done and nasty into each word, waiting for her husband to finally snap, spin around, break her neck. She wants him to end it, put his once loving hands around her throat - right there, near Detroit, before the plane has a chance to do it for him.
The man can't.
But Bud, he's thinking he might be able to lend the old couple a hand. The foul woman's husband is in even worse shape than she is. He can't articulate his own horror. He simply shakes his bony skull. A bit of tired white hair forgets where it belongs and so gives up trying, dangles air-born.
"I asked you! What! You made a face! What was it? What is it!? What? Tell me!" It's toe curling. Bud's thinking he can reach through between the seats, get one arm around, if he can't reach her, he can at least reach him. cause Bud's thinking, 'if I get one of of'em I got both of'em'
"Jesus Christ! It's my back! My back!"
And the old man saying it is her reward. He's in pain. Good, her lips smack with joy. She sucks the last ice-cube from a soft-drink cup - bangs the upturned thing into her mouth - smacks the bottom of it with glee. She looks over, leans in on the old man and whispers, "What! What was that? You just said something - I heard something !" But the old man simply turns away.
The plane lands in Chicago just past midnight. The woman in 20A stands triumphantly, lips pursed, head bobbing, she stretches to show her husband what it's like.
"What!? What was that face!?" It starts again.
Bud wants to step on her foot, fix he breaks. He's looking at their bags. One of them has a tag - if he gets a glimpse of the address...
"I need help with this bag." She says out-loud, to no one and everyone. At this point Bud would have to get on line to garret the hag. The folks on the plane are tired, cramped and it's that moment before the cabin door is opened, the teeth-gnashing moment everyone feels will be the final moment of sanity before eternal chaos and confusion.
Bud stands and smiles. Those nearby give him a dirty look. Is he crazy? A young man elbows Bud. A woman with a child in her arms shakes her head with disgust.
Bud's a big guy, six-two. He's over the woman, his large head suspended directly over her face. It looks like Bud may just clamp his mouth right over the small woman's head and have done with her. But no, his smile is his weapon. He's so close she can see the bubbles on each strand of saliva as his broad mouth widens. He reaches around the woman to get at the bag in the overhead storage compartment. As he does his body envelops the hateful woman, just for a moment. He doesn't take his eyes from hers. She doesn't flinch. There is no threat, no worse, no this or that or here or there or I and it for this creature.
When Bud puts the heavy bag in her hand, the woman says nothing. Her husband doesn't even watch the exchange. He has no hope left at all. Their misery is perfect. Transcendent. As the crowd ruts down the aisle a moment later, some folks are grumbling, snickering, yawning their way into the welcoming gusts of icy Chicago wind.
Bud's still got a smile on his face. He'd met his match. He thought he's seen the worst of the worst: Killers, addicts, lunatics and mountains of self-righteous, self-doubting, self-hating sufferers clogged the city's and fouled the countryside, but this pair.... No. Bud caught that address on the travel bag, but he'd never visit. He owned that. Meddling in the old couples lives, or deaths, that would just pour bad karma on eternal misery. He, like everyone else that had the misfortune of running into that tragic pair, had to draw that horror in, hold it, feel it, and then either let it go or suffer the consequences.
The strength of their hatred for each other had eclipsed into a singularity, a black hole of undifferentiated fury. Nearness meant oneness. Oneness meant....
Bud blanched at the thought of it, turned up his collar and steadied himself into the wind.