3)Help. Highjack. Flight: . Love you.
2)Help. Crash. Flight: . Love you.
May powered down and flipped her cell phone shut. She kept those drafts, just in case.
The lone light glowed above her seat. She’d already read about 100 pages of one of the books she brought. She’d done the magazine crosswords and sudoku puzzles. She kept pushing buttons on the in-flight entertainment touchscreen. TV, music. Music, TV. This was her first redeye flight.
She kept her cabin light on. She tried lying across the row, getting comfortable, but she was too wide awake.
The minutes teased her slowly, so she played with time zones to tame the torture. She imagined her heartbeat matching the tempo of whatever was streaming into her ears. The plane’s rumble resonated her deep thoughts which she could not clear for meditation. Someone she knew sat in first class, but he was fast asleep, probably dreaming of his wife and daughter, with one more on the way.
May deplaned into a chilly, windy morning she wasn’t properly dressed for. She caught the shuttle, then the train uptown. It didn’t feel familiar.
It felt the same.
She had enough time to set her things down before meeting a friend in the Lower East Side for a donut. The air mattress was ready: inflated, sheets drawn, even a chocolate on the pillow. She chatted a few minutes with her hosts – a married couple – then everyone went about the day separately.
The donut was just as she remembered it. So was her friend.
Later that evening, she sat in a bookstore and remembered to call someone. That led to a free tour of the Tenement Museum, a slice of pizza, and some quality time.
May started work the next day. She knew she would like it.
The next day after that was Friday. May spent the afternoon and evening in a car with four other girls on the way to Montreal.
Carnivals, birthday serenades, border patrol. Pictures. Always lots of pictures.
May laughed a lot and observed even more. She made room for the stuff to remember amidst what she tried not to forget.
Sure, she went to more museums and ate pizza and walked the Brooklyn Bridge and wandered Central Park. She attended a play and a friend’s gig, and visited DUMBO by herself. She dined at new places and settled back into old haunts. Still, she felt more like a tourist and less like she belonged.
She visualized slipping and dropping suddenly, and tumbling off the rocky face of the ridge. It didn’t bother her. But she watched her friends take steeper routes, with fewer footholds and hand grips. Saying “be careful” to them was her first and gut reaction.
The numbness continued to spread through her being. She contemplated shortening the New York half of the trip. She liked work. She liked seeing people. She didn’t know what she hoped for. She felt like an invader.
She felt like a ghost.
May went from apartment to apartment, spending a few nights at a time with her favorite people. She went on dates, if that’s what they can be called, officially or otherwise. She watched tv and made cupcakes and stayed up late, either with a book or friend.
She spent her birthday there.
She went to a concert.
And then, she was gone.
I sat on a small, crowded plane next to a nice lady named Tangela, who was on her way to Fernandina Beach for a family reunion. As the engines started, Tangela uttered dear Jesus, help us to take off and fly and land safely. I echoed her “amen.” Tangela commented on how the flight was full and the plane felt “heavy.”
I thought back to my text message drafts.
The plane landed in Jacksonville without a hitch.
I gathered my luggage and deplaned.
The next thing May knew she was sitting in the back seat of a car that wasn’t her mother’s, but her mom sat up front, right next to the driver. Words like dating and weeks and marriage entered her ears, and she realized what a great texting conversation this made. She typed away on her phone.
This was progress. May was long accustomed to receiving information well after the fact, so this was a pleasant surprise, if pleasant can also mean “jarring.”
She took the news well enough.
May spent the next few weeks visiting friends, playing with and sometimes unintentionally endangering their kids, going to the beach, going to the gym and the library, reading books. She had fun.
She tagged along on a few dates as well.
May knew her mom was going to do whatever she wanted. She asked if she prayed about it. She wanted her to be happy. She told her all these things.
May also spent those weeks thinking of the ocean sweeping her away, of head-on collisions, of careening off the Buckman Bridge.
I constantly thought of dying.
Like it was no big deal.
But if I thought if anything happened to my mom or dad or brother, or anyone else but myself, I reacted differently.
I was scared.
This isn’t so much about my mother springing a surprise whirlwind courtship on me or anything else, as it is about my need to feel sorry for myself. Like I’m helpless. It doesn’t even make sense. It’s been eight months: get over it already.
The solution was easy, really.
The plane landed in Salt Lake City yesterday.
I made it back to Provo.
I deleted the text drafts from my phone.