Sleeping Next to the Man on the Plane

by Ellen Bass

I'm not well. Neither is he.
Periodically he pulls out a handkerchief
and blows his nose. I worry
about germs, but appreciate how he shares
the armrest—especially
considering his size—too large
to lay the tray over his lap.

His seatbelt barely buckles. At least
he doesn't have to ask for an extender
for which I imagine him grateful. Our upper arms
press against each other, like apricots growing
from the same node. My arm is warm
where his touches it. I close my eyes.
In the chilly, oxygen-poor air, I am glad
to be close to his breathing mass.
We want our own species. We want
to lie down next to our own kind.
Even here in this metal encumbrance, hurtling
improbably 30,000 feet above the earth,
with all this civilization—down
to the chicken-or-lasagna in their
environmentally-incorrect packets,
even as the woman behind me is swiping
her credit card on the phone embedded
in my headrest and the folks in first
are watching their individual movies
on personal screens, I lean
into this stranger, seeking primitive comfort—
heat, touch, breath—as we slip
into the ancient vulnerability of sleep.


  1. This is very well written. Thanks for sharing.

  2. This was very descriptive, however, I couldn't imagine myself finding the same comforts she seems to in a stranger. Not in a million years.

  3. I very much enjoyed that! Great writing!

  4. oooh this was lovely, in a sort of strange way but i liked it
    xoxo, mccall

  5. I can relate fully. I do not like flying and yes, another human beings immediate presence is always comforting in difficult situations, even if you value your personal space as much as I do. Thanks for sharing that.

  6. I can sympathise with these feelings. Also take a moment to think on this - is it not extraordinary that one can sit a chair at 30,000 feet?

  7. As usual, the writing is awesome but since I value my personal space and am not anxious about flying, I had a hard time relating.

  8. Very nice ... it took me there to that place with 'that' space :)

  9. Wow. Really nice hun!

    It has it's own way about it, and individual aesthetic. Liked it.

    xx Action Wolfe

  10. I am on that plane, bad air and strange noises. I know that man, and have offered him a Hall's mentho-lip-tis....he declined.

  11. Another reason I can't sleep on planes, and we're going top Spain in about 6 weeks.

  12. You painted a very beautiful picture :)! Writing like this is seldom! Keep em coming!

  13. Your piece reminded me of how powerful and lovely touch is. It got me thinking (and writing) about my children's generation and how comfortable they are with hugs. See Mar 4 entry. Lovely lovely blog. I'm an avid follower!

  14. I just found your blog and was instantly drawn to it.
    I love the way you write and this poem is really evocative.
    Love it.

    All the best



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