Trip to California

Don’t watch an Air Emergency marathon right before a plane trip, is all I can say.  I have the jitters anyway, just because this trip is so important to us.  I know we have only been looking for a job for a few months, but we have been out of money since February. 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 Tyoma out of my mind.

We take off  and the physical thrill engulfs me.  I love the roller coaster pressure of flight.  The idea of soaring throughout the clouds to an unnatural elevation thrills me. Unfortunately the blabbing of the pilot brings me back to missing Tyoma.

I do miss him. I know Mom will do a good job, but still.  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 Tyoma.  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.  The clouds are luminous, but 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 the ocean floor, bumped and whirled by unseen eddies of turbulence, that I can feel perched in the sky.

Well, that squeezed all the poetry out of me.  I turn my focus to fellow passengers.  A deeply concerned black man, who spent all of his time making phone calls at the gate folds his hands together pensively.  I could not quite overhear his conversations, but he had the air of one dealing with family tragedy.   He was not calling to inform anyone of news, but rather to reassure others that he is on his way.  I stare at him and want to say something to him, or even just to lay my hand on his arm.  He shifts posititon and I glance away. I don’t want to disturb him with my open sympathy.

An Asian family with a 14ish son sit placidly.  The boy brought a skateboard for a carry on which caused a commotion as the family tried to check it at the front of the plane. He is pudgy and has an earring in the cartilage of his ear as well as newish looking skater togs. Something about his beaten down demeanor tells me he is picked on by other kids.  His parents and grandparents bow in unison to the flight attendants offering drinks.

Two twenty-ish girls, long haired and busty,  sport spaghetti strap tank-tops and new high-heeled sandals. Oddly, their make up is subtle and flattering. They fuss over their two carry-on dresses that they hoist out of the overhead compartment.  I try to avoid eye contact as I take in the spectacle, so they don’t see my amusement, but the duo do not seem self-conscious.  They are too immersed in the adventure they are about to embark on to notice anyone else.  I get a closer look at the dresses, they are flimsy, inexpensive and fashioned with the sort of glittery tackiness I thought died in the 80s.   Generic plastic hangers complete the scene.  I half way expect them to change their clothes in the aisle, but they are simply twittering over their new dresses. I suspect that the girls will have a riot in Las Vegas.

The rest of the passengers have bowed heads, silently focusing on their private tasks.  There seems to be a pattern: laptop, laptop, book, book, book.  I am the only one writing in a paper journal. Am I so antiquated, 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). I listen, above the sound of the plane no one is speaking.  It is hushed except for the sound of peanut wrappers and Egor chewing ice.  My wine feels warm and smooth.  Out the windows, the trilobites have shifted into relief–etched into the landscape, looking more geological and less surreal.

As we come close to Nevada, I wonder about all the others who have looked down on the same scene.  The eternal expanse of seabed is unbroken by roads.  I wonder how civilization crept over this expanse of dry furrowed land to find Las Vegas.  Five, ten minutes pass.  The earth slyly 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.  It looks like we are flying 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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