I offer my elbow, tap yours with mine, it means hello.
“OK, I’m going to bed.”
“OK, I might not see you.”
“No, I don’t think you will.”
He’s looking at his phone, says
“OK.” My wife and I are staying the night at my parents’ place. They will watch our dog Hugo for us. Early tomorrow we will drive to the airport.
“Say please and thanks.”
“Don’t get excited.”
“I mean, don’t get upset with people. Just keep your comments to yourself.”
Alright, I’ll do that, it’s good advice really. Why not? I’ve got a lot to lose. As much as anybody.
Plenty of masks, eye contact, full flight, wife next to me. We’re traveling with another couple, to Savannah through Atlanta. I’m glad not to be on a cruise ship. A Supposedly Fun Thing, Held At Sea. My throat is a little sore. I sneezed five times in a row this morning, but that’s every morning. I don’t like sleep but I’ve become allergic to waking up. Or to coffee. Science could settle this but it’ll never get the chance.
Tagless bag. Economy cabin chatter. My wife’s popped her earbuds in, already angling for sleep. I only ever had head-fall-back-snap-forward-to-wake-up sleep on airplanes. But I sure can look out of one of these tiny windows and put pen to paper. Twenty minutes past sunrise. Early March in St. Louis. In like a lamb. Luggage tram. Oranges cones, airplane mode.
I have a habit of picking at the chap on my lips. That falls into the prohibited hands-to-face behavior class. I’m trying to be mindful, I’m trying to stop. I washed my hands well before boarding. If my hands were a steak they’d be well-done. But I looked at a grim trio of stand-bys, all in mouth-masks, three different kinds. They looked serious. They knew something I didn’t know. It’s here, isn’t it? Buckle up, this plane begins to taxi.
Descent into cloud. I can’t see where we’re going but that’s why we have a pilot. Pilot like a light in the night! Air strip, test kit, throw that tissue away. Spendthrift handkerchief, hand on pen, pen to mouth as I ponder the next line. It’s being written across my lips. Only machines will read it.
* Credit for title to P Vaughan. Full essay to follow at some point, in a week or two.