Writing by me: Flight

I like this, but I don’t feel like submitting it anywhere, so I’ll share it with you instead.

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Flight

He loves the recycled air taste of the plane. It reminds him of plastic cups against his teeth, breathing in antibacterial cleaning products, licking polyester. It’s distinct. He files in behind a woman who can’t compose her carry-on – it stops and starts independent of its owner and trips her, bangs her ankles. Her elbow hits the plushy part of the green fabric chairs and she murmurs “sorry,” even though those seats are empty. The woman and the carry-on turn into a middle row though its number had not yet been called for boarding.

Five rows further back, he settles in his the window seat. Though the aisle is infinitely more convenient, he always choose the window. The view is worth the awkwardness of climbing over his row-mates. But the perspective of a Jack’s giant glancing down at the teeny human world is not the view that he craves. No, he just wants to watch the wings shake, the machinery flipping and lowering and raising depending on its distance from the ground.

It’s time for the safety demonstration, and the flight attendants throw in a joke or two to spice up the speech. He mimes all of their actions as they speak which impresses the woman two seats away, in the practical seat. The plane is backing up now, so it seems they’ve been lucky; it’s just the two of them in row fifteen. She asks if he is a flight attendant on the sly. He likes that “on the sly,” but says no, just a frequent flyer, just attentive, just good at choreography. She laughs. She is not pretty, but he finds himself smiling at her anyway. Her face is interesting. There are thousands of expressions trapped in there, he can see them wrestling, and he can’t determine which one she’ll experience next.

She gives him her name and they shake hands, but then she turns all of her expressions away and he’s too distracted by the impending take off to remember what she said. Mya maybe, or Nancy. Something like that.

They are taxiing now, and as he watches the wing shake as the plane ups its pace, he wonders why they call it taxiing. Why not cabbing or something made up and technical? He also wonders how he would spell taxiing – if there’s a hyphen or if there’s a “y.” He thinks about ringing the flight attendant bell, but they wouldn’t come now anyways.

The blood-suck roar of the plane is in his ears and the wheels are off the ground. This is the best moment, when he sees if the combined genius of humans who dreamed of flight can successfully hoist him and all these heavy, gravity-bound strangers into the air. The wings are trembling like fever-struck children at first, but they still after only a few thousand feet. The seatbelt light goes off confirming, yes, he’s flying now, the geniuses have done it again.

The seatbelt light is off but not the “no smoking” light. It’s always on. It’s been on since the ‘90s, saying no. He’s not a smoker but he feels for all the little cigarette figures captured and sliced and lit for display like so many carcinogenic antlers above their heads. He hates that violently rude symbol that surrounds an object and then slashes its middle. Some airlines just put a polite little red “x” over the cigarette. Much kinder.

The view is clouds and boredom, and he gently reclines the seat back. It feels rude, but if it was frowned upon he’s sure they would make the seats unreclinable. He hopes that the person behind him has short legs.

The woman beside him has pulled out a book. Something clunky with one of those spiky-edged circle stickers on the front. An award-winning book. He tries to remember if there’s a name for that spiky edge. Is it beveled? He tilts his head, slides his neck forward without removing his shoulder blades from the seat to try to read the title. East of Eden it says. John Steinbeck. He remembers reading Of Mice and Men in high school and crying.

The woman speaks to him, but he’s thinking about the rabbits and how distant they are from him. They are Earth things and he’s a sky thing right now, higher even than the rabbits’ feathered predators. The woman says have you read it, and he shakes his head no. Just Of Mice and Men. He asks if it’s good and she shrugs. Better if I knew the bible, she says. Her expression undulates again and it’s self-mocking. She says, but maybe then I’d like it less. He nods. Religion only makes the bad things better. The raise of her eyebrows pulls the edges of her mouth up. A cynic, she says. Then smirks. Thank God.

The book shields her face and he turns to stare at the comically large plane over the little screen map sneaking east across the country. They are an hour away from a destination, but not his. He will switch planes at the next airport to a small, low-flying, trembling thing. He’ll skim the bottom of the clouds in the body of that rickety creature, and no matter how long that flight will take, he’ll wish it was longer.

The best flights are when he goes north to the wind-chilled villages dotting the top of the prairies. Those planes fly low and slow and the walls feel thinner. The passengers can hear the wind, feel even its gentlest buffets, and can’t fool their minds into believing they are safe. He thinks that’s why they fly closer to the ground. Not because the plane needs to, but because the passengers want to convince themselves that they would survive the crash they feel is imminent. Survival. It seems possible though he knows it isn’t.

The flight attendant comes with her cart. He knows this one. Sheri. Or Cheryl maybe. She recognizes him and he’s impressed and uncomfortable. She asks, economy today? But means it rhetorically. He nods and answers water and cookies. No ice. The reading woman puts Steinbeck down, orders a vodka and orange juice. Breakfast drink. Cookies too.

Sheri takes a step back and he remembers and calls wait! She smiles her pleasant and patient customer smile and calls him Sir. He asks why it’s called taxiing and if she knows how to spell it. The woman snorts into her orange juice, and Sheri says she’ll try to find out.

The woman pulls out a pill from her bag, pops it into her mouth, and washes it away with her concoction of yellowy citrus and mashed up grains. Sleeping pill, she tells him, even though only his eyes had asked. He says she shouldn’t force herself to sleep. First of all, it’s mid-morning. And second, what if something urgent happens; what if she needs her life vest and oxygen mask? She laughs and says she expects someone will help her. He shakes his head. People panic and they don’t think about each other, trapped in a metal tube falling from the sky. Her face shifts from kind. Her lips say angry and her pupils say scared. Well it’s too late now, she says and shuts her eyes like slamming a door.

When they drop below the clouds he doesn’t wake her. He’s watching the wings. The pressure builds and threatens to explode his ears, but he holds off on swallowing to see how much he can stand. Cars wink the sunlight at him and glass buildings glare it. The man in front of him pulls back from the crack between chair and window, but he leans into the brightness.

He needs to see the landing gear drop.

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obvs:
© 2014 Sarah Lund

Copyright fuzziness and that other excuse

I’m uneasy about sharing too much of my writing online. Partly, it’s because I’m not a lawyer.

This is what I understand about copyright:
Copyright is inherent when an original work is created and expressed in a fixed manner. This includes “text” which includes blogs which means that anything original I share on here is protected.

It certainly sounds like a secure legal shield against anyone looting my words for profit (though a better protection is… who could possibly profit from this?), but my expertise is limited to an hour of research, a two-day media law seminar four years ago, common sense, and anything I might have stored from a copyright-related episode of Boston Legal or Suits (which don’t exactly explain Canadian applications of the law anyway).

My legal apprehension would not stand up as an excuse to hide my work if it wasn’t for the other reason. You know the one. Fear.

Fear is a useful evolutionary development when it helps you to avoid dangerous, life-threatening activities like being thrown off/out of tall things without safety equipment or starting an argument with an angry person holding a weapon; it’s a stupid reason to hesitate over posting a short story on a blog.

That being said, here’s something for your reading pleasure, written in 2009.

Portage and Colony

1:00 AM

It’s nights like this that make people say the worst about the city. It’s brutally cold. Mother effing cold. It’s an aching, bone-deep, biting, piercing cold. With a north wind.

My scrunchy grey boots aren’t up to the challenge. It hurts when I wiggle my toes in their snow-stained points, and I knew it would when I wore them. But they’re my sexiest winter footwear, and I’m still trying to make Jack want me. Well, that’s not true. I know he wants me. I’m trying to make him act on it.

“Do you…ever think about that night?” I asked him tonight, too casually, too slowly, too carefully, with a would-be-lazy smile. I flicked my hair and rested my bright mismatched sockfeet on his coffee table.

He stared at me. Doesn’t know how well I can read him. He bit his lower lip – dead giveaway for trying not to say something. Turned back to the kitchen.

“I still feel guilty about that night,” he said. And walked away.

Ouch. But at least he’s still thinking about it.

That wind is vicious. My damn toes hurt and the guy in the bus shack is waking up. Lovely.

There are no cars on the streets. The occasional bus that is not my bus drives by, empty and dirty, eighties-patterned seats within, scowling driver pulling out ahead of the non-existent traffic to run a red. He’s too used to those bus-priority lights. Or maybe he’s lost all will to follow the laws imposed upon him by people that didn’t fall back onto bus driving.  Bitterness for his unfulfilled childhood dreams must’ve had a hand in running that red.

There aren’t many sounds. Just the hydraulic hiss of the bus gaining speed, the squeak-crunch of old snow as I shuffle my feet to fight cold, and the low hum of the garish light contraptions adorning the medians of downtown. No sounds of living. A dead city, cryogenically frozen.

It’s snowing now. I didn’t notice until I looked up at the streetlight, its yellow beams fuzzy at the edges as if my eyes aren’t quite working. Fat white blurs too close to my face made me jump. Bus shack man is looking at me as if I’m crazy.

Jack is probably asleep by now. Or maybe not. Maybe this time the four cups of coffee beat out the beer and pot and he’s watching something with Ricky Gervais or zombies.

Maybe he’s feeling guilty again.

My bus is coming. This hulking orange carriage is more law-abiding than the last one; it’s sitting patiently at a red two sets of lights away. The driver must have fewer regrets.

It crawls toward me, and I reach into my bag, trying to find my bus pass in the oversized pockets while maintaining eye contact with the driver to ensure he doesn’t drive past. My woollen mittens are not ideal for this kind of delicate work.

My phone vibrates against the back of my hand as I close my fist around the little blue folder housing my pass. With a soft, drawn out squeal the bus stops, doors opening with their chhh-shh-swish, and I flash the folder open, TV cop-style, and return driver’s nod before taking my favorite spot. Two rows back. Left side window.

I hold my breath before I check for my phone. Expectations down. Down. It’s probably Brandy, who never sleeps, or Justin with another thing to whine about.

Sans-mitts, lights on, sitting, things are much easier to find. My phone climbs into my hand. Snuggles into the palm. Nudges my thumb. Take a look. Come on. Don’t rush me, I’m fighting against inevitable disappointment. Stop stalling. Check me out. Stop being such a loser. I sigh, thinking of everyone who could be calling me. The phone vibrates again – its obligatory “something happened and you missed my first notice” vibrate. But angrier. I take a deep breath, pick it up.

One missed call – Jack Reiger.

I slide my thumb across the screen and press the tiny green icon. Calling. Ringing. Ringing. Ringing.

“Hello?”

His voice is a little growly. My heart bangs on my ribcage, trying to get my attention. Apparently it really enjoys a growly voice. Settle, I tell it.

“Hey Jack. It’s me,” I say.

A pause. Why is he pausing? What could he possibly have to pau–

“Hi.”

Calm. Be calm. Lower expectations.

“Hey. So, I saw you called,” I say.

“Right…yeah. Nevermind.”

Nevermind? Is he kidding? I look around at the empty seats and share an eyeroll with the bum-worn orange fabric across the isle. I certainly “mind.” I’m outraged and bemused.

I laugh. Joking. Joshing. Cajoling. “No. That’s not fair. You have to tell me why you called.”

Another pause. I send him my pleas telepathically. Do it. Please please please do it. Stop considering and just tell me, I think at him. I turn in the direction of his apartment, picturing my words, wisps of brilliance and influence, sliding through the air full speed. I bat my eyes and pout a bit, as if he can see me. I hope the driver isn’t watching the interior mirrors.

The balaclavaed woman near the back coughs, and I imagine she can hear what I’m thinking. I can’t help yelling “This is private” as loud as I can in my mind. I’m jealous of her power.

“You should have stayed,” he says.

Somehow, it echoes.

My heart can’t cope. With a final pound it faints dead away. I shake my shoulders to revive it and it flops and wiggles, seizing more than beating.

“Pardon?” I ask him. I heard what he said; I just need to hear it again. I can feel my heart glowering at me. Bracing for another impact.

“You should have stayed. I should’ve made you…asked you to stay.”

What to say to that? I’m certain I need to be careful with my words, my tone. Not too eager or too desperate. Curious, intrigued, with a hint of happy. The pause lengthens. My choice this time, not his. I imagine back in his apartment he’s squirming, slightly panicky, like me.

I can’t keep this up. I don’t know how he does it.

“Why?” I ask.

He clears his throat. I need him to talk faster so I can stop wishfully predicting his next sentence. And so the bus – moving much too fast for the first time in the history of public transit – would stop taking me away from him.

“Anna. Please.”

He sounds tired. And he’s pleading. But he said my name. I’m a sucker for that. My name sounds exotic, sexy, original from his lips.

“Please what?” I ask, and I don’t notice when my left arm snakes up, pulls the stop cord. I only realize when the bell sounds and my hand falls back to my knee.

I stand up, stumble down the aisle. At the front, beside the driver, I hook an arm around the pole and slide my mittens on, phone tucked under my ear. I listen to his silence, the occasional sigh. The bus is stopping, and my grey boots carry me outside. I’m crossing the street. There’s a bus coming this direction; no waiting this time. I’m already on it when he says, “It’s too hard to talk over the phone.”