I’m looking for the reset button on this plane. I should’ve landed the jet three hours ago, but I don’t know where we are. I stare at the gold stripes on Jonathan’s epaulet. “I dont recognize these stars or city lights,” I say. The Big Dipper can do nothing for us now because it’s gone. There’s no way to move northward because the compass doesn’t work. Before I break it to the passengers, I need to break it to myself. We have no destination.
“The moon is still there,” Jonathan says, but he knows it can’t help us either. Air traffic control has disappeared and we haven’t seen another plane in four hours—a disaster disguised as limbo—and what I notice first is all the things I no longer feel like doing. All the things I’ll never do again once I land this plane. I don’t want to shop. I don’t want to sit or drink or talk. Now I understand how satisfying it is for people to throw glass for the sound of it. I don’t care to share my thoughts and feelings; what I need is to discard them by their heartless glass avatars. It’s time to check on the passengers in the main cabin. I order Jonathan to take over.
I ask a woman in the fourth row how she’s doing. Her eyes resemble unsecured kayaks, dark in the water. “I took two Percocet and I feel dizzy,” she says. “Good,” I say. “Good.” I pat her on the shoulder. Ken, a thirty-three-year-old flight attendant, pours a child orange juice. He reminds me of my husband. He only reminds me now; he never did on any previous flights. I add and subtract all the outward similarities and differences—his hair color, his voice as he pronounces orange, the slight protrusion of his knee through his trousers, his clean-cut fingernails circling the cup—I end up with a negative number. He sees me watching and asks if I’d like a glass. There are many questions people could ask that I no longer want to answer, but this isn’t one of them. This question reminds me that I want to be in love with someone for the rest of my life. It can be the same person, or it can change. They don’t have to love me back, but I’ll need to know what to do about it immediately.
The most rational thing I’ve ever done was right after my husband apologized for having forsaken me; I got up off the bathroom floor, walked to the kitchen, poured myself a glass of water and drank it completely.
Ken offers me juice again. There’s nothing to get mad about and no wrong answer. “Yes,” I say. This is when I know I’ll always be a source of confusion for others as long as I believe my husband is alive, sleeping in a familiar place without me.
Jonathan’s voice crackles over the cabin speakers. “Ladies and gentleman, please fasten your seat belts. We’ll be descending shortly.”
A woman in the back screams. The cabin is divided; half don’t want to see what’s down there; half are afraid of the sky’s infinity. But we have to land sometime. Our gas won’t last forever and I trust Jonathan has found us a safe, empty spot. The plane dips slightly to the left.
A man begins to clap, both spastic and controlled, like a maraca. Children throw their toys into strangers’ seats. Soda cans are crushed for the hell of it, because one person started it. Ken sits next to a girl with broken eyeglasses. We can’t tell if she’s crying or laughing. We ask her, but she doesn’t tell us, she just keeps crying or laughing. A freed dog runs up and down the aisle and everyone tries to touch its fur. Music plays. The woman in the back continues to scream.
It’s the hushed passengers who intrigue me. They look like they’ve been riding this plane all their lives. Easily, they’ll forget it as soon as they get off. They’re perpetually on the brink, always taking sides with their circumstance but still able to leave it. Always ready.
I say to one of them, “Ive lost us. I don’t want to be here anymore. I want to live in a little house with no one above or below me. I want sunlight and a yard where people come over and laugh at each other’s stupid sentences. I want to rub my hand all over my husband’s head and have us be in love for the rest of our lives. He said he knows me better than I know myself. I wish this was true, but it’s not. If it was, I’d never have to explain myself. I don’t feel like talking anymore. I think I’m going crazy.”
The passenger doesn’t know what to say.
I return to the cockpit and put on my headset. “This is November nine five two three Lima approximately ten miles from an unidentified brown terrain at ten thousand feet, possibly northeast-bound, coming in for final approach and landing.” Jonathan reduces our speed and adjusts the flaps.
We can finally see the features of the place we’re headed toward. The terrain isn’t brown, it’s green. Green like the United Kingdom. Green like my husband’s eyes, my favorite olives, a lit-up dance floor. The ground is illuminated by a strange, dull light. All shades are here, like nothing I’ve ever seen before. I announce to the cabin, “Look out your windows.” I want them to see what I’m seeing. This is the only time we’ll ever get to witness an approach to our undisclosed futures. I’ve never been given this chance before. It’s the farthest I’ve ever been from conviction.