Can you cry in freefall?

16 08 2011

My time in Colorado, with my beloved mother and sisters, is slipping away. I chase after the seconds, but they outpace this mortal body by 670,999,997 miles per hour, give or take a few. I hadn’t fathomed the size of their absence until I felt that hole filled.

This night, amidst packing for my trillionth flight this summer, give or take a trillion minus eight, feels like a good time to share another airplane story.

The first leg of my most recent flight into Denver was overbooked. My seat was in the rear of the cabin, my boarding group the last to be called; I stared at faces as I trudged down the aisle. It was 7:20 on a Tuesday morning. Every eye was hooded with a quiet desperation.

Or were they just mirrors reflecting my own dis-ease back upon me?

The seat next to mine was the last on the plane to be warmed by life, however surly. He was a southpaw; I know because his coat flapped open as he squeezed by, his gun staring me in the face. I thought sky marshals were a relic of cheap fiction? Clearly he must have too, the guy was out cold before we even left the gate and didn’t wake until we’d touched down in Salt Lake City. I could have palmed his weapon at any point during the flight. I could have stormed the cockpit, put my 30 minutes of flying experience to good use, and rerouted us somewhere far away–just flown and flown until we ran out of fuel, flown to some island where we’d fish and scavenge and create our own world from scratch.

Instead, I pulled out my book and entered the world someone else had crafted for me, a world where “what has been wounded in relationship must, after all, be healed in relationship” and you “[can] tell love when you can take it completely for granted.”

And I cried.

From liftoff to the moment we again touched solid ground my cheeks were streaked with tears, all because of that lyrical little treasure I picked up from the library. As I worshiped through the sacred stories of A Shining Affliction I found myself thinking over and over and over again “I want (to be) that!”

I sat in a tin can with 150 strangers and cried tears of hope and longing. Sometimes I really do impress myself.

For the next leg? Lather, rinse, and repeat–only replace the sky marshal with a hirsute man-beast wearing football memorabilia and encompassing half of my seat as well as his own. My concentration was frequently broken by the sudden rush of cool as his arm shifted away from my own, bringing the unsettling awareness of just how much he’d been sweating.

***Update***

One week later: the book is different, planes are heading the opposite direction, sky marshal and minotaur have been replaced by human-shaped bottle of coco-butter tanning lotion and puking 7-year old girl (I really couldn’t tell you which smell was worse)…tears are the same. Reading in public is becoming dangerous.

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