‘I dared to catch a glimpse of the man. I was curious, for as I said, I had no idea that I was able to cause such strong emotions in a complete stranger... He was blocking a part of the window. The young woman withdrew her hand and pressed herself back in her seat, as though in an attempt to give us more room. Even though she was trying to disappear, she had a dazzling aura.
'The man looked at me. He was dark-haired, with the beginnings of grey temples, and he had dark eyebrows and grey-blue eyes which followed my movements, chiselled features, with a jutting chin... But I’m sorry, you already know him!’
She puts her hand to her head, and continues:
‘I’m actually rather shy, but I also looked across at him... We didn’t say anything. Then he sent me a smile, which made me lower my gaze. At that moment the flight attendant was standing behind me. The man asked for red wine, while the woman between us didn’t want anything. The man had a deep voice. He made a remark about the strike that had been called off the previous day. He asked the flight attendant questions, including one about how long they could expect to remain in the job these days. The flight attendant was soon about to be sixty, it was her last month at work. She had stuck it longer than most people do, she admitted, as she passed him a glass and bottle. A lot of people gave up around fifty, because the unstable hours of work were so stressful.
‘Now a new gentleman, very determined-looking and also cheerful, was suddenly sitting over in the window seat. This confused me... Or did it also make me even more inquisitive?
‘I saw the man fill his glass, but decided not to drink, as I was going to meet my boyfriend. Dino, he’s called... The man’s voice was calm and controlled. I put my book aside. I couldn’t possibly concentrate on reading about exile and imprisonment.’
She stops abruptly and says:
‘I certainly am.’
It gives me a sinking feeling to hear Andreas described by Rebecca, even though I know that she wants to visit him. Her encounter with him on the plane takes me by surprise.
‘His voice touched something inside me. It was strange. Feverish.’
She is suffering an unbearable inner tension, something she can’t conceal. She watches me furtively, before resuming her narrative.
‘I don’t recall ever having heard a man’s voice like that before. He began to talk to me, but I felt extremely dizzy, even though I hadn’t had a single glass. I remember at first I didn’t reply, and thought he must think I was slow-witted.
‘I could hear the noise in the cabin. Faint coughing. Other people talking to one another in a distant hum. Words that were wiped out as soon they were spoken. But the man went on talking in the same comfortable voice. His voice I could hear...
‘I kept the book on my lap. From his seat, he asked me what I was reading.
‘”Camus,” I replied, in order to avoid having to hurl the title in his face.
‘”What by Camus?”’ he wanted to know, of course.
‘The woman who was balanced between us pressed herself even harder against the back of her seat, so that the man could talk to me.
‘”The Plague!” I shouted back... I felt a stabbing pain in my head. The man had turned to one side in order to hear me better. He also liked Camus, it transpired. He had thought The Outsider was great, but The Myth of Sisyphus was the book that had really meant something to him. At that moment the book in my lap slid to the floor under the seat in front, but I managed to retrieve it with my foot, and picked it up.
‘The cat woman suggested I exchange seats with her, so the man and I could talk. I declined. After all, what would I talk to him about? I could feel that something was going on but didn’t know what to do about it. The man really seemed to want to talk to me. As though it were the only thing he could think of, even though he was on his way to Barcelona with his girlfriend.’
For a moment Rebecca sinks into herself.
translated from Danish by David McDuff
Star Without Land
Star Without Land - 2