(A snippet from the ongoing graphic novella The Java Knot)

I freely admit to having an unfettered imagination. Which may be partially to blame for my hypochondriacal nature. If I see things I don’t completely understand, I extrapolate, fill in the blanks so to speak. Any tummy ache is a symptom of a greater anomaly. Sepsis, bleeding ulcers, ptomaine poisoning, tapeworm colony penetrating my intestinal epithelium….those are the lesser of my fever pitch imaginings.

So I’m on a flight back from Istanbul. Went for an architectural pilgrimage to Hagia Sophia. I had actually been before, as a child when I lived in Turkey, Ankara to be precise. Pop, in the US Air Force at the time, was stationed there. But I had little to no recollection, so this felt like my first truly cognizant visit.
Well, across from me sat a passenger. Thin, squished features, and in need of a cane as she came up the aisle when boarding. Big, sturdy frame glasses with thick lenses. The big statement, hype-fashion, bel mondo gear that I find mostly clunky. The haircut was au courant though several shades of walnut deeper than you would expect from such withered features. C’mon, let’s face it. I may be jealous but I’m not mean.

I was putting away my luggage when she arrived to take her seat. I don’t automatically step up to help people struggling with their luggage as some can be touchy about personal belongings and if they make the initial attempt I show respect for their independence. But the shoulder bag she carried was awkward, she was quite short, and not showing much success as a phalanx of passengers increased behind her, I gently extended an open palm, and asked, in Turkish, “Izin verirseniz?”
A slight nod, and I hoisted the bag into place. I then lifted the seat’s arm and held the right seat belt up so she could settle in more directly. She took the belt and chose to quickly lower the seat arm as she did. As she settled in and fastened the seat belt, I sunk back into my seat without further ado. A bold glance was cast towards me, not so much to thank me as to assess whom had taken it upon themself to….assist. Decades of social interaction in myriad locales and backwater travels have given me a fairly dependable sense of when to mind my own fuckin’ bizniss. I was towing the line here.

We were flying to Frankfurt from Istanbul on PIA. So, I took note when the stewardess came by with packaged blankets and earplugs and upon handing these to my new friend received a thank you. In Urdu. I’m pretty certain about that. Learned that from the Pakistani embassy kids who turned me onto Tin Tin adventure comics back in Ankara. Being that all the flight attendants on every flight I’ve ever taken on PIA, or THY, most airlines for that matter, speak English….well let’s say, it caught my ear.

I opened my sketchbook as soon as we lifted off. She put on an in flight movie, with subtitles, in French. And opened a folder of some documents, which appeared to be in some form of, not sure, Russian? Impressive. Probably an academic. A language polymath whizz kid who writes those damnably opaque tomes liberally sprinkled with run on sentences and a host of suffixes no one else ever resorts to.
Didn’t I freely admit to being the jealous sort?
She then put in ear plugs but not to the console. To an iPad type device. Wow. Talk about multi tasking. Did I mention she pulled out a fountain pen, to jot notes in the margin. Of course it was a Mont Blanc. Good pen I’ll grant, but a way overpriced brand by my perspective.
Being that she seemed occupied sufficiently, I arranged my sketchbook so a sly peripheral glance would not gain view of my doodling subject. Her.
I put away the M215 Pelican fountain pen, and uncapped my Graf von Faber-Castell Classic Ebony Anello fp with a Broad 18K gold nib. Touché bitch. And with that we made our way across European skies.

In time she put away her papers and appeared taken in by the movie. I liked trying to capture her yellow and brown Buffalo gingham jacket. Square and hip at the same time. She was pretty clear in her wardrobe that harmony ruled the day. Ginger colored big ribbed corduroys and the chocolate suede Chukka boots, why even her cushy neck pillow matched. She was like a meal at yer typical American sports bar. Tan to brown food. Although the cut of meat resembled a dried out chicken cutlet. Okay, I’ve strayed into my mean streak. There’s no need for that.

Suddenly her ears got red. A Carmine blush that must have arrived with a considerable heat rush. Apparently that plug in her ear was live and feeding her something someone had said that created a dramatic response. Her gnarly hand raised the cane an inch, if that, and stamped it into the floor. In contrast to her orange red ear, the knuckles of her clenched fist were yellowish white.
Now she was clearly talking. I had thought the working of her jaw had been gum chewing. The video had been put on pause. Something, or rather somebody was getting her full attention. I made sure I appeared consumed in my doodling, slightly turning my head away from her least I warrant another glance. And the muffled words that wafted from her face mask sounded, well, I’m not sure…. it certainly wasn’t..(to be continued)

 

Drawn with fountain pen and Pitt Artist Pens on watercolor pad.

The Java Knot (Installment #9)

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