He wrote as illegibly as he could, barely able to make out the words himself.
It was the way he had always done it, out of some youthful belief that people cared what he was doing, that someone was reading over his shoulder.
Deep within he knew it was petty to be afraid, but still he went on writing like a child, just in case someone decided to sneak a peek at his notebook.
The woman in front of him reclined her chair and he felt a little frustrated with her, but he sipped the whiskey water and closed his eyes, picturing there wasn’t a seat in his face or a tray at the top of his thighs.
To the right he had the angle on the man sitting in the next row, and he read a few lines of the book the man was reading, but he quickly became bored and decided he’d rather close his eyes and only open them when he had an idea about a sentence. Just one sentence, he thought, come up with one and then write it down. After that, you can close your eyes again and think of another one. He sipped the drink. And so on, he then thought.
No one ever again is going to tell me what’s important, he thought, no one.
Then he thought, well, I wouldn’t want to shovel shit for a living, either, but who was talking about that?
I’m not sure it’s true what they say about airplanes, he wrote sloppily, I don’t feel any drunker. He reached down into his laptop bag and found the quart-sized plastic bag and removed the airplane bottle. He poured the whiskey into the leftover ice.
The problem, he then thought, is that you have to drink them fast. You have to order the water with ice, drink down the water to stop the melting, pour in the whiskey, and then rest your hand on it to tell when it’s cold enough. You don’t want to use up more ice than you have to, he told himself, because it’s not easy to get a cup of ice around here.
That’s what they call a two-for-one, he thought, two airplane bottles for every cup of ice.
Then he thought, oh, you’re plenty drunk. Now is the time: Any thought that comes to your head write it down. No one is watching and it can be between you and the pen and the paper, he told himself.
Then he asked himself, why do you still doubt it all? We go through this every time.
I don’t know, man, he thought, what if they don’t get it?
He had the end of the pen on his lips and then he pushed the tip onto the paper but it did not move. When it did not move he set it down.
“Allow me to introduce myself,” he said suddenly to the man next to him, “My name is Will. Don’t you find it strange that we’ve been sitting next to each other for two hours and we haven’t said a word to each other?”
“Not really,” the man said truthfully.
“Ah,” Will said, “See, that’s the sort of thing I’m talking about.”
“We haven’t talked about anything.”
Then the man said, “I’m going to put my headphones back on now.”
“Are you sure? I have some good stories here if you’d like to read one.”
“Is that what you’ve been doing?”
Will showed him the stories. “I’m still working on this one but I have others that I could let you read,” and he removed his notebook from his laptop bag.
The man thumbed through the notebook briefly and said, “They seem kind of short. I’ve got a friend who just wrote a book. It took her over two years.”
“That’s what you need to do. You need to go further than a page if you want to be a writer.”
“I bet I’ve said more in that one page than your friend did in her entire book.”
The man rolled his eyes and said, “I’m going to put my headphones back on now.”
Will nodded and looked down at his notebook. He took a sip of his drink.
All right, he thought, but it’s between you and I until I get it right, and he went on writing sloppily, just in case the man next to him grew curious about the new story.
He did not want him to know he had included him.