Trip to California

Some advice: don’t watch an Air Emergency marathon right before a plane trip. The jitters would have got me anyway because this trip is essential to us but still! I didn’t keep metallic flaming horrors to haunt me during quiet moments.

Egor and I have been looking for a job for a few months, but we have been out of money since February. Our trip to L.A. is the best opportunity for a good job. Getting seated on the plane, E gives me the window seat.  Bless him! As the flight attendant performs her obligatory take-off seat buckle demonstration, I try to push missing Liev out of my mind.

We take off; the physical thrill engulfs me.  I love the roller-coaster pressure of flight.  Soaring through the clouds to an unnatural elevation thrills me. Unfortunately, the jabbering pilot brings me back to missing my son.

I do miss him. Mom will do a wonderful job.  It sounds ridiculous, but imagine.  If you are used to wearing a watch when you are out and about, you become habituated to checking it for the time.  This is how I miss Liev.  My eyes want to find him, check him, and process that tiny bit of information before I can carry on with a clear, untroubled mind.

The best way to relax is to look out the window and write what I see. The light blends into late afternoon, and clumpy curdled cheese clouds catch my eye.  Luminous clouds offer no respite for the parched desert below.  Arroyos on drab sands look like branching veins, gin blossoms that roll into cauliflower-eared ridges and hills.  As we increase our altitude, the land below reforms into a fossil bed.  Armies of trilobites meander on an ocean floor, bumped and whirled by unseen eddies of turbulence.

Well, that squeezed the poetry out of me!  So I focus on fellow passengers.  A profoundly concerned black man, who spent made phone call after a phone call at the gate, folds his hands together.  His gate side conversations were inaudible, but he had the air of one dealing with a family tragedy.   His calls were to reassure others that he is on his way, not to give news.  I want to say something or even just to lay my hand on his arm.  He shifts position, and I glance away. I don’t want to disturb him with my open sympathy.

An Asian family with a 14ish son sits placidly.  The boy brought a skateboard, which caused a commotion as the family tried to check it at the front of the plane. He is chunky with an earring in the cartilage of his ear and newish looking skater togs. Something about his beaten down demeanor tells me other kids bully him.  His parents and grandparents bow in unison to the flight attendants offering drinks.

Two twentyish girls, long-haired and busty, sport spaghetti strap tank-tops, and new high-heeled sandals. Oddly, their makeup is subtle and flattering. They fuss over their two carry-on dresses they hoist out of an overhead compartment.  I try to avoid eye contact as I take in the spectacle, so they don’t see my amusement, but the duo is not self-conscious.  Immersed in the adventure they are about to embark on, they would not notice anyway.  They flounce dresses which are flimsy, inexpensive, and fashioned with the glittery tackiness I thought died in the 80s.   Generic plastic hangers complete the scene.  Are they planning to change clothes in the aisle? The teen boy will be thrilled, although he struggles to ignore them.  As they twitter over their new dresses, I imagine them having a riot in Las Vegas. Champagne and shrimp cocktails will abound.

The rest of the passengers bow their heads, silently focusing on their tasks.  A pattern manifests. Laptop, laptop, book, book, book.  I alone write in a paper journal. Am I so old-fashioned, so soon? At least I don’t have a typewriter.

I close my eyes, enjoying the smooth buoyancy of the flight.  Vibrations from the plane are rhythmic and soothing, the shushing of the engine, hypnotic — a train ride in the sky.

The drink cart approaches.  I am excited by the possibility of wine.  We obtain our drinks and peanuts (which you must request). Above the sound of the plane, no one speaks.  All is hushed except for the sound of peanut wrappers and Egor chewing ice.  My wine melts down my mouth, warm and delicious.  Out of the windows, the trilobites have shifted into relief–etched into the landscape, looking more geological and less biological.

As we approach Nevada, I wonder about the others who have looked down on the same scene.  An eternal expanse of seabed is unbroken by roads.  How did civilization creep over this stretch of dry and furrowed land to find Las Vegas?  Five, ten minutes pass.  The earth cleverly transforms into a mottled desert, and then into greener terrain transected by vivid ocher roads — tiny patches of metallic crystals glimmer.  The randomness of the landscape becomes grid-like and rectangular.  We fly over an immense stretch of green and brown circuit board with soldered roads.  This gives way to turquoise quarries and a milky blue lake populated by tiny watercraft whose wakes I can see. Viva Las Vegas.


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