Somewhere Over North Carolina
I’m writing this from 30,000 feet above the Earth. There’s a newlywed couple in the seats beside me. They keep looking at their wedding bands, not yet used to their newly bound fingers though it will someday feel like they’ve always been there. They’re talking quietly about the honeymoon they’re about the have, how they should have registered at Barneys after all, the absence of her step-brother, who said he threw out his back but was probably too stoned to get his suit cleaned. They are darling and they are annoying. It’s their periodic kissing–a little too loud, a little too wet–that really gets to me. The sight and sound of kissing has always made me uncomfortable. As a child, I ran from the living room when a kissing scene came on TV. When my parents kissed at the end of every night, a quick peck on the lips when my mom went to bed; she would lean down to my father reading the newspaper or watching TV on the couch, they would kiss, and the bile in my stomach would reach for my throat. The newlyweds aren’t that bad–and besides, it’s been well over a decade since I last ran from the living room–but I still wish I were somewhere else, in the bulkhead maybe, or on a train.
On the other side of the aisle is a young woman with a dog in a carryingcase under the seat in front of her. I noticed her at the gate and wondered what she would do if her dog howled at its proximity to the moon, 30,000 feet closer than normal. This dog is not the only one; there are four dogs on this flight, each small enough to fit under a seat. Before we boarded, three of the dog owners let their animals sniff each other. They circled and smelled, learning who-knows-what about each other. One woman at the gate kept her dog–small and white and surely AKC-registered–in its case on the seat next to her. I wondered if her dog mounted another dog at the park once and she doesn’t want this to happen on American Airlines flight 2200 from Raleigh to Aspen.
Somewhere Over Tennessee
Despite the newlyweds making out on one side of me and the dog quietly farting on the other, I slept for the last few hundred miles. This isn’t really hard for me. I excel at few things more than sleeping, especially in uncomfortable places. My father has insomnia and I’m afraid this is something I will inherent from him, the same way I got his blue eyes and feet that are too small for my body. I don’t want to be like him in thirty years, awake during the night, listening to AM radio shows about alien abductions through headphones so not to wake my mom. But this has yet to happen, and so I reclined just a touch, put in my own headphones, pulled a knit hat all the way over my face like an enemy combatant being transferred to Guantanamo, and fell asleep.
Somewhere Over Arkansas
I read the in-flight magazine instead of watching the in-flight movie, which I think was about a woman who gets hit by Cupid’s arrow and then falls in love with a seagull that shits on her head, although it’s hard to tell what’s happening when I don’t have my glasses on. I would have preferred the movie to American Way Magazine, but I never watch movies on planes because they make me cry. On a flight from Seattle to Atlanta a few years ago, I became so overwhelmed with while watching The Longest Yard, an Adam Sandler film about violent but lovable prisoners who compete with corrections officers for the penitentiary football championship, that I faked sleep, leaning my head against the plastic window, shaking from the effort of keeping the tears in. Ice Age, a cartoon about a prehistoric squirrel who can’t find a place to hide the last acorn on the planet, was the worst. It was playing on a flight from Charlotte to Chicago that I took with my sister and my mom several years ago. My mother laughed so hard that the other passengers looked at her oddly, wondering why a grown woman who find an animated squirrel so hilarious. My mom’s uncontrollable laughter was so endearing that I leaned my head against the window and squeezed my eyes shut and pretended to be asleep.
Somewhere Over Kansas
I haven’t said a word to anyone on this plane, not even the flight attendant taking drink requests. When I was younger, I loved flying alone. I didn’t let the strangers sitting next to me open their books or put in their headphones without asking them where they were headed. I told them stories about my life, that I was in boarding school, on my way home for the summer, or that my dad was a pilot and so I got to fly anywhere in the world for free, which I almost believed. My grandfather was a pilot and so I considered myself part of the PanAm family, which I told my fellow passengers before I found out that the company went bankrupt when I was eight.
The last time I made conversation on a plane, I was twenty-four or twenty-five and had a long layover in Santa Fe. I drank gin and tonics at a western-themed restaurant that with cacti and margaritas painted on the walls. I felt comfortable at that bar even though I didn’t know what to do with my carry-on, which was unwieldy and over-packed. I sat at the bar and watched a man start to pour his drink into a plastic water bottle, but then the bartender–a very tan woman who seemed to be working every time I was in the Santa Fe airport–caught him and gave him a talking to. He apologized and didn’t protest when she took his water bottle and gave him his check. After I boarded my plane in Santa Fe that evening, drunk, I sat beside a woman who was in the military. I brought up Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell before we even buckled our seat belts and turned off our cell phones. I asked if she knew gay people in the military and didn’t listen before telling her my opinion as a gay woman–that the policy was the best thing about being gay. I then hiccuped, laughed said, Just kidding. The best thing about being gay is gay sex.
Somewhere Over Colorado
My sister is picking me up at the airport. That’s why I’m on this plane–this is where she lives and I haven’t see her or anyone else in my family for three years. I’ve eaten nothing since liftoff and I hope my sister brings me a sandwich or a takeout container of lo mein, which she probably will do because she is a good sister.Tomorrow we will drive back to this airport and pick up our parents, who are taking the red eye from O’hare. We’re renting a house in Aspen, and the woman who owns it called to apologize for her manger and wreath because it just occurred to her that we might be Jewish. This amuses us because we are so not Jewish. We are not anything, not Catholic or Protestant nor even baptized. We don’t worship Christmas or Hannukah, but the plane is landing now, and for this, I celebrate.
We will all turn on our cell phones as the plane taxis, text our rides that we’ve just landed and will meet them by baggage. We’ll stretch and open the overhead compartments and wish the people in front of us would move faster because we’re finally here, for honeymoons or Christmas trees or to see our families after too many years. We’ll take our bags and our dogs and each others’ hands, walk on cramped legs off the plane, still far, but 30,000 feet closer to home.
This will be my last post for a while because I’m writing a book! Or, at least, trying to.