When someone you love is traveling, as soon as they board their plane it’s as though they enter a vortex— a space in which they exist but they don’t exist in relation to you. You couldn’t call them and hear their voice; you couldn’t get a message to them if you tried. But you never stop feeling tethered to them by the string that love weaves between people.
In these moments, your relationship is suspended in time, as though it is holding its breath from the last moment of connection: the moment you waved goodbye, the last words you said. When you see them enter the terminal, it’s as though they are reemerging from the vortex and erupting back into your reality. Your relationship reemerges as a collaboration— a give and take, an exchange of ideas and love and energy. The relationship can again be mutual. And it also becomes transient, forever shifting, never static.
But what if that plane never lands, if the person you love stays suspended in the air forever? Your relationship pauses, which is something your body can hardly understand. You keep expecting to see them in their familiar places; you expect to pick up the phone and hear their voice; you think that if you just wait long enough you’ll get to hug them again. But the pause just becomes longer and longer until eventually even your body begins to understand.
When people say, I can’t imagine what it must be like to lose a sister, I share this metaphor with them. I say, the way you feel when a person you love is on an airplane, that is how I feel about Aleisha. From the moment she died, it has been an extended holding-my-breath hiatus. One long pause.
No matter how old I get, I will always have a 17-year-old sister. My best friend will always be stuck somewhere above the clouds. And I’m down here on the ground waiting for her to emerge from the terminal.