The Hummingbird Lady
Published: December 3rd, 2009
By: Shelly Reuben

The Hummingbird Lady

The airplane was about to take off. I had the seat by the window. She had the seat next to me, on the aisle. I was young, confident, fearless, friendly, and endlessly fascinated by everything. Particularly people. Particularly ones I did not know. I approached them the way a sugar addict would a Whitman’s Sampler box of chocolates. Is the lumpy one a cashew cluster? Is the rectangle a Vermont fudge? This round one had better not be a cherry cordial, because I hate those.

I viewed people … strangers ... everyone in the world who occupied the Ranks of the Great Unknown in that same Whitman’s Sampler way. What was their shape? Their color? Their texture? Would they be smooth on the mind? Abrasive to the soul? Interesting but elusive? Tangy? Tart? Sassy? Smart?

The first leg of my flight began hours before at New York’s LaGuardia Airport. I changed planes in Kansas City, but shortly after I had settled in, my seat companion began to fumble ineffectually with her seatbelt. First, I showed her how to insert the tongue into the latch. Then …

“Dear me. I’m so clumsy,” she murmured. I picked up her fallen handbag. “I hate to be such a bother …” I un-snagged the band of her wristwatch from the edge of the armrest. “Oh, dear. I think I broke it ...” I snapped her tray table back in place after it developed poltergeist-like symptoms and flopped into her lap.


The Evening Sun

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