"Hello, hello, hello..." mutters the voice lethargically. "god damn, I'm hung-over."
I look around, and no one else has batted an eye-lash.
It somehow grows darker outside. I'm asked to turn off my phone, and electrical devices until we're at a certain altitude. Everyone else just closes their eyes, and prepares to wake up fresh as a daisy in a new time zone. I look through my texts one more time, and think, "Sometimes I just want to kick myself."
"Sir, when the sign asking you to put on your seat-belt is on, that also means turn off your cell phone. When it goes off again, you can turn it back on." She doesn't mean it rudely. In fact, she says this with a perfectly legitimate smile on her face.
"Just...another minute, okay?"
She places her hand on top of mine, and continues to the back of the plane. Moments later she returns with some unidentified drink in a clear, plastic cup made to simulate class. However, worrying about class in coach, in a middle seat while Lindsay Lohan traipses across the screen in some wacky comedy. You see it in her hollowed-out eyes; she's trying to justify her addictions and proclivities for tabloid-rag front pages. "I still belong." And for a second I feel a connection to Lindsay Lohan. And in the next I feel a burning fire in my throat. Cheap whiskey on a cheap flight at some ungodly hour in the morning.
This is class done with class. This is style done with style, boy.
A story unfolds on the tiny screen in front of me. It's funny how something the size of a pocket planner can change every moment of your life.
I hold the "End" button with less and less certainty. What's in front of me is waiting for me the moment this plane lands. For now I can pretend. That every mile conquered in the sky is an accomplishment. That I'm doing something with my life, and that if my dad could see me now he'd be impressed and proud.
But at three in the morning, while the rest of the world is asleep, every thought is revolutionary.
Thoughts like driving down a dark highway alone, with the windows rolled down and the Pacific in the distance and the radio screaming the playing field in equal parts entertainment, and relativity. Where the sun never rises again.
The kind of relativity only the truly broken hearted, open eyed could ever actually relate to. The kind of relativity only a beating heart fueled by plasma, soul, rock and roll and love could relate to.
The kind of relativity that when that singer sings so passionately, that when they sing good-bye, you feel that strength, too.
See, for some of us, the worlds coming to an end. We're just waiting for the final rotation. We aren't nihilists, we just want that experience. We just want confirmation that that choking feeling in our chests was justified; that our intentions weren't vilified.
There's a last second straggler just like myself. She isn't haphazard, she's just frazzled and tired.
She sits near the front, and she's fidgeting nervously. She keeps going through her things, over and over. Like a record with a small skip, she continuously checks a small red bag.
Outside the sky is so dark, the lights on the tarmac seem futile. Beads of rain decorate the street in a sheen of clean, clean evanescence. This city is washing it's hands of me. Tomorrow it's going to wake up with a clean slate. The grass is going to be just a shade greener; the sky just a little bluer, the air just a little fresher.
The seat begins to pull me back, keeping in rhythm with the growing hum on the outside. Ears begin to clog with pressure.
And in seconds the ground below me twinkles less, and less brightly. I stare in awe that I was allowed to escape without the ground opening up and eating the plane whole.
I want to read. I want to listen to music. But what I want most is to live in this moment unmolested.
The ground growing blacker and blacker, the air getting cooler and cooler.
The girl up front, she's slipping on a light pink hoodie. And if I hand't seen it with my very own eyes, I would have never believed it.
She pulled out a flask. I don't even know where you get a flask these days. Much less the brazen fortitude it takes to sneak one onto an air-plane, especially when it's made out of metal. Somehow, her exploiting an obvious hole in our Homelands Security makes me comfortable, and happy. The warming effect of my own drink helps, too. And despite it all, I'm smiling.
Sometimes it is those little things. Those small victories we achieve when absolutely no one is watching. When all the right people turn left, and we get the chance to sneak right and live in a different chapter of a better book. A book not everyone gets to read, because to read this book means your a lifer, whether you like it or not. You don't sample the fruit, you feed openly.
But one thing...there is absolutely no turning back.
She drinks without concern for regulations on flight safety. She drinks without regard for silly things like sobriety, livers, or taste.
I find myself drinking with her pace, and having a great time trying to keep up.
The lights are dim in the cabin, everyone else is sleeping. Dreams of flying, dreams that mean nothing, dreams that can, and will be forgotten. What a waste of what little imagination we have left.
I keep getting sympathy drinks from the flight attendant.
I keep racing a stranger that doesn't even know they are in the middle of a heated competition.
There is mild turbulence, and while some of the slightly conscious grip their seats with half-awake white-knuckle fear, I relax and sink deeper into my seat.
It was 1997, and we were just kids. We'd heard the adults constantly say how we were joined at the hip. I smile with half my face. The other half knows what the other is trying to ignore. I'm a friendly-fire casualty caught in the middle of a war I once fought in, and that's fine by me.
But we were just kids. I guess in a sense we still kind of are, too. We took a trip with that church group out to California because it was summer and we hated the heat we knew. It's not that we believed in Santa in the Sky. It's that we believed in getting away from our parents, and exploring each other in sleepy churches next to the beach.
We rode the Superman ride at Six Flags. The line was forever, and you knew I hated to wait. You always thought it was odd, throughout all our time spent that I'd hated waiting so much because usually I was so patient with everything.
It was hot, and I felt sticky. You smiled, and held my hand. I think you always assumed that I was kind of scared of the ride.
You assumed right.
But I was excited, too. We got to be among the first to ride that ride.
My hands gripped tight on the restraints, and I never got a chance to open my eyes; it was over before I had a chance to see it in full. It's one of my biggest regrets.
I closed my eyes with you, and gripped tight. When I opened my eyes you were gone, and my hands were stiff and sore, like it was bone on bone for so many years.
Now I can't help but lay back and let the chaos work it's wonders. See, I believe the world is coming to an end. So, if this is the rabbit hole, then I want to see how far down it goes.