They took the evening flight, so the plane was full of people trying to party the six hours over. Whole rows of early twentysomethings ordering drink after drink, sharing their iPhones and earbuds around, and laughing uproariously. When Tom turned to place them, their flushed faces were green in the reflection of their screens. Either that or it was young families watching movies — groups of one kind or another.
In the row ahead there were three young men, each sixfoot-something, dressed smartly in button-down shirts and chinos, with combed-back hair flopping forward, square jaws, and squared-off hairlines across broad necks. They looked like ex-high-school football stars on a night out, or like mannequins that had come to life. They drank cans of beer and Bourbon and Cokes, and flirted shamelessly with the female flight attendants, who, by and large, appeared receptive to it. Every now and then, one of the young men would lean in to whisper something in his friend’s ear, and they would convulse with silent laughter, the whole row of seats shaking under them. They were oddly intimate with one another, Tom thought: forever touching and cradling and even kissing each other’s heads as they laughed.
He craned to see them communicating with other passengers via the seat-to-seat chat on their screens, but couldn’t make anything out. They seemed to be egging each other on, pushing each other to be bolder, ever more risqué in their exchanges. Then they would shake their heads and convulse with laughter again, with their fingers pressed into their eyelids, at either the things they said or the things being said in return. By the time the turbulence hit, though, all three of the young men were asleep, and the cabin had fallen quiet…