I’m on the airplane now. It smells like grass, which is strange because they usually smell so sanitized, as if the flight attendants go through after the cabin has been filled up with people and spray it down with some scentless eliminator to rid it of that hot, personable smell.
The flight attendant is bleating instructions and my window is squeaking. I hope it’s not going to squeak the entire way back to Minneapolis. I’m looking out at the layout of the airport, so much like a set of veins and arteries, and if you don’t look over to where the city looms nearby, it could be anywhere. The landscape below you could be anywhere. It’s grids and blocks and streetlights and then it is countryside and water. New York turns into Chicago which turns into home.
We are going to take off soon and this love letter will be silenced. An airplane love letter; you cannot use your phone to say these things, you must not. They will never send over rivers and wind. They’ll get lost out there, those messages, and wind up decorating evergreen trees or something. Instead you scribble your letters in the margins of your book with a borrowed pen, in the notes section of your phone, engrave certain lines in your brain so you don’t forget. You can’t send the original love letter in the mail because it’s all broken up.
The wheels are going and then they’re off the ground, and this, this big blast of terror out of nowhere is unfamiliar to me. The kind where you look down and realize your plane could be in pieces there, a wing in the ocean, a seat on the highway. I’m afraid. And I have never been afraid to fly.
If my plane crashed or disappeared into clouds the way they sometimes do, this would be gone along with me.
There would be no record of any of it. Of any of the past day, which has sent me into a frenzy of letters after weeks of silence.
The bleach stain of a hotel bed, with the pizza blotch, the blood from my knee, the nail polish dots wiped clean. And we grew big red roses of passion there; they flourished in the heat we made and then wilted inside me, inside my skin and yours. You pressed me into you, kept me there all night sheathed like a sword between your hip and arm.
You hold my heart, a great chunk of it. I think of your portion as a big chunk of sashimi, red and cool but weighted. I know you can feel it. It vibrates in your pocket all day, it follows your footsteps down the street. I know you can feel it chasing you down, keeping you company. My heart is chasing you around like an eager puppy, ready to jump back into your hands.
I guess you never really sat it down and I guess I never really tried that hard to get it back. I filled your empty space way too fast and then hit the wall, tragically, catastrophically so, after you left. I gave you the whole thing and maybe I got half of it, or even 75% of it back, but I don’t have the whole thing.
When I see you, you probably feel it pinging and ponging and thudding hard like a hummingbird. It drops down to my toes, it lurches, it leaves me a little dizzy sometimes. It’s just sheer joy at your very presence, the nearness of you. Maybe I’m just short of breath because I’m missing part of my most vital organ.
I don’t think you want to give it back. You’ve been holding it hostage for a really long time, probably bragging about your captive piece of heart to all your friends. Maybe you pin it to the wall when you sleep, or maybe you cradle it to your chest the way you used to do with me every single night. And I feel that pin; it holds me there.
The man who drove me to the airport – how funny, because I just happened to get into his shiny car and not someone else’s! I guess someone in the realm of fate knew I needed this man. We bonded over our love of the country and our desire to one day have enough money to just leave whenever we felt like it. He told me about his life and I put down my phone, dripping battery life, and I listened as we drove down Atlantic Avenue.
“When I die, I wanna be buried next to my mama and grandma above ground. I don’t wanna be in the dirt, I wanna be in one of those mausoleums next to them. Just to know I’m gonna be close to them is gonna make me feel good,” he said.
We neared the airport, the odd looming fixture that it is all the way out there in Queens and he looked at my face in his rearview mirror. “You wanna go back? You wanna go back to New York? I’ll take you there – no charge. Why you lookin’ so sad, you got a boyfriend there? I’ll take you back.”
It’s too late right now, because I am approaching Minneapolis. It’s nowhere near as grand to see from above as New York, but it twinkles in a welcoming manner. I am home, and it feels a little like someone kicked me in the gut. The wheels hit the ground and I am still thinking about what that man said: “Just knowing I’m gonna be close to them is gonna make me feel good.”