The thick, choking stench of tropical fruit gum saturating the breathable air of my coveted window seat approaches the unbearable.
I’m hesitant to write this post, not fully understanding the subtle differences between acceptable Asian cultural nuance and individual idiosyncrasy. I must beg forgiveness if my ignorance offends. But that scent… it’s everywhere.
The gaseous artificial mango napalm is oppressing in its acidity and potency. The airplane’s air jet does little to provide relief and instead stirs the fumes until they are all encompassing.
Our story’s antagonist desperately stretches from her middle-seat over mine to get a better view of the bleach white fog outside the plane. I steal a glance at her, perplexed at what she could find so fascinating about the opaque blanket that is the inside of a cloud.
The irksome smack of her tireless mastication sends me hunting for my earplugs. I’m tempted to stick two additional earplugs into my nostrils. Amazingly, even a barricade of foam does nothing to defend against this woman’s assault on my senses.
My heart soars as she reaches for the air sickness bag. Even the putrid smell and sound of vomit would be a welcome relief from the torturous scent of faux passionfruit and the ear itching sound of her chomping maw. I help her open the perforated seal only to see her spit out a golf ball sized wad of refuse, promptly fishing through her purse to replace the spent fuel with four fresh richly scented new pieces. Her mouth opens fully between each smack, letting the potent gas cascade out over her chapped bottom lip.
Is Karma punishing me for some forgotten crime? Perhaps in some former life I was guilty of a heinous act. Theft is too trivial for this penance. Genocide? Perhaps.
Finally, the eternal two hour trip from Wuhan to Beijing winds to a close and the plane descends towards the runway. Her head still cantilevered over my chair, her gum still pouring out its noxious tropical scent, I ache to escape the plane. The polluted air of Beijing has never sounded so appealing.