He was a dark-haired, tall (about two meters tall) man with a loose beard. He sported black pants and a black T-shirt with an inscription that I did not remember.
He was sitting in the seat next to me on the plane. As he showed his phone to his friend across the aisle, his hand almost touched my nose. It didn’t annoy me. It was either my fatigue from the events that had recently happened to me, or his athletic physique. Muscular people taller than me seem like giants to me, and I automatically try not to show them any disrespect.
The events of the past year keep me constantly on edge; I’m tired. Too much uncertainty where certainty is needed, and powerlessness where strength is needed. I sat down in my seat and began reading an author who writes naive prose, I don’t know why myself. It wouldn’t help me, it would only make things worse. But when you feel bad, you listen to sad songs.
During takeoff, I noticed that the man was also reading. As you may have gathered, my level of moral values is not very high, so I looked over my shoulder at his phone. There were paragraphs in his native language, with paragraphs in Arabic in between.
“The Koran,” I thought.
He would read, then close his eyes and say something silently. Then he would open his eyes and read again. Later I would realize that he was probably afraid of flying airplanes, and so increased the likelihood of our plane not crashing. Because when we gained altitude and were on course, he fell asleep.
Anyway, I had no problem with him until the flight attendants handed me a menu and I found a beer in it. At first a plan matured in me, and then doubts.
Is it okay to drink beer next to someone who is reading the Koran?
My first thought was to ask him if I was disturbing him.
Second: Is it too much? Why should I ask, since I am not supposed to know what he is reading.
Third, even if I did know, wouldn’t it be too good to ask in advance?
Sometimes, you know, you get tired of being nice, so I didn’t ask him and bought a beer.
I was flying over a Muslim but secular country. The airline’s head office is located in the same country. Airline offered to buy this beer.
I was holding the can, getting ready to open it, but taking my time. He looked at it, at me, and said:
— Brother, can you not drink yet please.
I praised myself for my discernment! Then I should have asked. So I thought about it for a reason.
I immediately made the decision that I would not drink beer on this plane. Yes, of course, a lot of counter questions, dilemmas, and so on came up in my head. But it’s so easy to not drink beer to do a little research. And it began.
— Why? - I looked at him pointedly incomprehensible.
An equally incomprehensible look in return.
— Because of this, — he said, and showed me the screen of his phone.
I wanted to get some knowledge, but all I got was a gesture. I wanted to understand how he sees the world, but so far I’ve had no luck.
— What is that? - I hinted that I needed help.
He only swiped the app for me to see that the list of apps said “Koran”.
— Is that the Koran?
He nods very discreetly. Maybe it’s a word that can’t be pronounced? Why can’t it be pronounced? Why can the text be shown then? I have so many questions… But I realized that I can’t know anything, because I was faced with a great mystery in the person of this man.
— You said: “yet”. When can I have a beer then? - I tried to find out something.
— When we have landed at our destination.
I realized that that was all I could get out of it.
— Okay, I won’t drink any beer.
— Thank you. My name is Mehmet, — he holds out his hand.
— Alyosha. Pleased to meet you.
For the rest of the flight I can neither read, nor look, nor listen. I only think about the feelings of people, believers and non-believers.