what is it about being on an airplane that makes you want to write? i think it’s the charged and temporary captivity. you’re moving yet nearly immobile, you’re up there, you’re somewhere, you’re a little scared and maybe these will be your last words. maybe they won’t be. maybe they’ll just be words written on airplanes. i’ve compiled some such tales below, snippets from trips, simple plane text. come along with me.
I always eat everything on the little airplane meal. every fucking bit of it. I use all of the butter on my bread. I pick up and scarf down every single grape. I scrape around the perimeter of the little cup of salad dressing with my finger and make sure u get it all. I eat the dessert right away, I save nothing. This is mine. and then i package it all back up into the little boxes and secure the little flaps and am painfully content with my compact little meal.
Why do they create a new time zone on the plane? It was 10am in New York and 4am in Hawaii and in 2 hours they served us dinner. The lights were out and they ordered all the shades such tight. We were to be quiet. We were to sleep. Breakfast was served at 2pm Hawaii time, 7pm New York time. Breakfast. Do they know some sort of jet lag equation I don’t know about? Because this feels like forced adult nap time and I do NOT like that.
the sky here is vast, eternal. its liberation hangs heavy, smothering the landscape. breathing life into rolling hills,flat plains, shallow rivers before settling slowly and heavy between buildings, over rooftops, streets, park benches. it colors I. The gray, the sidewalks and stone with tones of orange and red, altering their natural state to be part of this sunset, this experience. An opening and a closing. A slow drift toward the night. It gently touched my skin, kissed my cheek, penetrated my soul as I stepped off a plane 7 months ago. weary and excited, displaced, it embraced me. It grazed my summer-tanned skin. It lay before my uncertain feet. it filled my heart with light and lightness, a tangible warmth, an intentional deterrent from any former plans. and it will stay with me, additional baggage as I handover my boarding pass and step onto a plane. it will fill in the gap as my soul splits again, leaving behind the jagged ephemera of my being, to hold and be held, to be guarded and used. it will occupy this space.
Just plane sleepy.
The guy behind me is yawning audibly in such a melodic way I don’t even want to listen to music. my headphones are in but the sound is off. he sounds like an adorable little bunny desperate to notify anyone with earshot that he cute but he sleepy.
Plane Short Story I haven’t finished.
“I’ll get us fired up,” he said with easy confidence as he rolled away his black suitcase swiftly. Dunkin donuts was supposed to open at 5am, everyday. all they had to do was put the donuts into the case, donuts that had been pre-made in an industrial kitchen in queens, and fill the coffee filters with grinds and turn on the machines. that’s it. those simple activities, by 5am, every morning. Here it was 5:18 and he was waiting in an ever-increasing line with his co-pilot. Not his life partner or partner in crime, his actual co-pilot. The man with whom he’d flown over 700 times, each trusting the other at the helm as himself, knowing the others’ actions and reactions, anxieties and (excitements) before they even occurred. So, he’d get the plane fired up while Jim got the coffees. Fuel for the pilots so they could fly the plane that would take us all out of snowy New York City right to south beach. It see me like a glamorous job, jet setting around the world, seeing the sun rise and set over the horizon in any number of countries each year, appearing and disappearing out of sight through the lens of the windshield as if you were the last person on earth. And that was definitely the draw at first- that freedom, that independence. But now, what kept him in the air, flying from destination to destination, arriving, departing, was the sense of complete control. Of importance, of discipline. The constant routine and processes that were now second nature- they were his refuge, his sanctuary. The buzzing machines and beeping gauges sung like soft, calming hymns as he meticulously prepared for takeoff. Jim would come back with the coffees and maybe some sort of sweet confection that he always hid between them until they were about to taxi down the runway. “Hey-” he’d say, his eyes sparkling mischievously. “There’s a little something else here for ya, maverick.” and playfully punched him in the shoulder. Jim was only 5 years his senior but this was their dynamic- the playful, caring older brother type. And so he played along. It have them a sense of family which was often missing up in the air. Which he felt more than ever now.
at the terminal gate I look in his eyes, my hand cupped softly around the curve of his jaw. Feeling he warmth of his skin, so familiar. and with hot tears swelling in my eyes, I finally squeeze his arm and walk towards security, knowing that with each step, we will grow farther apart. he watched me from the other side. he gave me our secret wave and an assuring smile. I blew him a kiss and my heart ached. It begged me not to go. when I finally looked back and saw that he was gone my heart waited, waited, inhaled and finally receded back back far beneath to the place it was before. waiting finally for him, until he appears again, until I can run to him, can hold him, can grab his hand and kiss his cheek and show him that despite the time and distance, that I’m his. and he’s mine. that from the other side it will still be I love you, te quiero.
Plane Tale from 2009.
9am wednesday. RIC airport. gate 9.
justin is a physical therapist in seattle. and i’ll never forget him.
you know, i don’t think he’ll forget me either. not anytime soon.
his kids are jake, and finley, 5 and 8. his girlfriend, maxi, is in germany. just before we parted ways i gave him a richmond postcard i’d been saving for just such an opportunity, in exchange for a promise to buy an international stamp and send it to her. they met when she tore her ACL. “she had her eye on me for a while… i had no idea.” part of me believed him. he was reading ‘Chicken Soup for the Lover’s Soul’. i was the only one who would verbally make fun of him that day. his simple justification: ‘well, i’m in love.’ they took the most beautiful photo at dawn on charles bridge in Prague. he said i looked czech with my high cheekbones and bright eyes.
it’s funny, now that i think of it. overhearing my response as to why i was going to colorado. ‘i have no idea,’ he laughed and forged a uniquely cliche introduction– ‘what’s your story?’
and here i am, writing his.
Plane Pretzels, 2016.
I challenged myself to eat the entire snack mix packette before he returned with my wine. I can do this, I thought, I can eat this entire fucking thing. come on, I encouraged myself as I uncomfortably stuffed dry pretzel rounds into my adult mouth. COME. ON. I demanded, my mouth dry, eyes panicky as i watched his slow and graceful return. NOOOOO. I fumbled with the remains of the snack packette. I tried to act cool with the thick pouches of wet pretzel tucked between my gums and my cheeks. Nooooo. I handed him my debit card. Defeated. He asked me if I wanted a receipt. Do I loom like I’m traveling for business? I’m so full of pretzel I can hardly enter my pin. No, I smile. Your wine glass is just below your water cup. He smiled flawlessly. I shift my gaze toward the double stacked plastic vessels sitting deep and cozy against the shallow rim of the tray table indentation. Oh! I exclaim. Lovely, I tell him. And as he turns I empty the snack pack into my mouth victoriously. thinking of how much I don’t even want it. Just the sweet and salty victory. The dry mouth of a champion. “Victoryyyyyy” my crumb filled tight lipped solemn and pronounced war cry.