In the clouds



My plane awaits passengers at the gate.

We are huddled there, at the gate, in cramped seats with bags at our feet, snacks and $5 bottles of water in our laps. Most of us wear headphones. We’re listening to or watching downloads, or listening to the voices of either those who await us or those we’re leaving behind.

I am nervous but pretending not to be. The concept of thousands of pounds of metal and people and baggage speeding through the air is unsettling. I need to know how and why things work. I need to know how every click and catch of spinning, mechanical things transports us from point A to point B. I need to know that God and science and a smiling pilot will get us there.

But sometimes it isn’t the physical act of flying that disturbs me, sends my leg jumping in anxious fits, but the confinement of the plane itself. The feeling of being contained, trapped. The knowledge that there is nowhere to go but here.

I board the plane. My carry on is too big for the overhead compartment and I must check it.

I text my husband as I take my seat: Just boarded. I have the aisle, and two young girls climb in next to me. They are in their very early twenties, and though they are not together it seems they have coordinated outfits for the journey north, donning black leggings and big shirts that slink down their pale shoulders just so.

The girl at the window immediately lifts the shade and looks out. The girl in the middle crosses her spindly legs and cracks open her dog-eared paperback. My own book is nestled between a seafoam-colored clutch, and jeans in my carry on which is now deep in the plane’s belly. Her hair falls between us like a curtain as she presses the book into her thigh and leans forward. She cannot see me. I glance right to scan the lines of her pages. The word ‘redemption’ is used more than once in the ten seconds I’m reading before the girl tucks the curtain of hair behind her ear.

I am listening to music as the plane hurdles down the runway, its nose beginning to rise. James Blake bellows “…but it’s worth the climb…” into my ears. I’d like to think my gripping the arm rest is discreet.

Take off is always the hardest part.

On the flight home I have the window seat. We level off and I reach for my phone and snap the requisite up-in-the-clouds Instagram shot.

The sky. It is wide and open and everything up here. It is miles and miles of the chance to be anywhere I want.

I look at the stretched clouds in my phone and think how I spent the first 21 years of my life living around the country and the globe. How, since then, I’ve settled in to a new way, using the excuse of becoming an employee and a wife and a mother as a reason to also become static.

 At 34 I am making myself travel again because I remember summers in Italy, the mangos and colors of Panama, the grit and glitter of New York, the art and grind of DC, the Falls of Canada, the twinkling lights of Paris, the San Diego sand.

I’m making myself travel again because the world is dynamic. It is redemption, liberation from my static self.

I am making myself travel again because there is everywhere to go, if only I would to take the chance to get there.


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