in the plane on the runway last night, preparing for take-off: I always squeeze my eyes shut and pretend it's not happening. take-off, that is. I never like to think about what's actually happening in those moments.
I could see the manhattan skyline from my tiny rectangular window. the faint lights of the empire state building, the chrysler building. and the bridge lights, they looked like giant glittery garlands draped over the city. someone behind me was sucking on a cough drop. I could smell something strong and medicinal, something like eucalyptus. the people across the aisle were already sleeping soundly and the small bright light above me felt like my own private spotlight. I've always loved that. if you fly at night and turn that thing on, you feel like you could have your own show. like if you had a microphone and a clove cigarette, you'd be all set to growl out poetry to whoever might listen.
the pilot began whispering (really, he was whispering) something about take-off and I couldn't really hear him. not so much because he was whispering but because I was deep into all the thinking-- about all the things I did and did not do. I was thinking of what kind of job I could dream up that might require trips to new york on the regular but also allow me to maintain status as a full time mama. I was already planning my next trip, compiling every kind of mental list imaginable. so much going through my head and looping repeatedly. all of it so that my mind would not go where I didn't really want it to go. I didn't want to think about those last minutes with my brother. how he rode in the cab with me all the way to la guardia and stayed with me up until the very last minute. how we made small talk over hot tea and pretended like it wasn't the end. how he squeezed every last drop out of our time together. and it really doesn't matter how old you are or how many hundreds of times you have done it, saying goodbye is the most heartbreaking sort of thing to do. because you never want to think about how long it may be until the next time or that it may actually be the last time. you don't want to think about all the things you should or shouldn't have said.
he waved at me as I stood in line at the security check point. I thought he'd already gone on, but there he was. waving and half-smiling, one last time before he finally walked away. I fumbled with my bags then, tried to get them into the grey plastic trays as quickly as possible. I could feel the restlessness of people behind me and bristled at the thought. I yanked my boots off and slammed them into the bin. one glance back at everyone and I knew I'd made my point. and I didn't want to cry, not then but I could feel it coming-- watery eyes and that unmistakable feeling in my chest. I fought it. not under these harsh fluorescent lights, I thought. not in front of the security person who looked ridiculously bored, not while I was struggling with a wayward purse strap and wondering if my feet smelled. I stuffed the sadness someplace in the back where I knew it would be safe, someplace I might never get around to finding it. I walked towards the gate.
and then all of the sudden we were taking off. I swear I felt my stomach drop seventeen different times. I kept my eyes wide open, though. I didn't want to miss anything.