It’s too easy to say that it’s the end of the world. Yes, the plane is rattling. Indeed, people are gasping, mouths opening and closing like beached fish and you’re sure you overheard one of the flight attendants curse over by the service entrance. Yet, no one is screaming. The emergency oxygen masks haven’t popped out of the overhead compartments. Take a look at yourself. You’re not even clutching the armrest, because your seatmate is hogging it. He wears a dark jacket and a beautiful beard and a bit of distraction. His standoffishness cools any urge you have for confession. That’s what people do when it’s the end of the world: they confess that they’re secretly in love with their best friend’s wife, secretly gay or pan or poly, secretly stealing K-cups from the company breakroom. Your best friend’s wife is beautiful but doesn’t seem into women, though there are the times of wine and porches and dusk and the way your best friend looks like he’s sitting between the two people he loves most in the world. You have often found relief in that possibility of greater unity, that you would all be so worthy of love. But now, it’s not the end of the world. Your seatmate has loosened his tie and he keeps clearing his throat. He looks like he could use a laugh. You can still crack jokes, of course, unless cracking jokes is exactly what you’d do at the end of the world? The plane bucks again, this time sharp, and the oxygen masks fall, dangling in front of your eyes like limp fruit. Strap one on and take a look at yourself: reflection in window, clouds streaming past at a dangerous angle. Look. You two are fine now; you send each other goofy online videos, you remember birthdays. You were brushing your teeth when she called you. She said, I don’t know what he’s going to do. You spat in the sink and said, Are you safe. She said, I’m not there but he’s got these pictures of me, and you said, I’ll talk to him. You had toothpaste all over your chin and you weren’t wearing pants. It couldn’t have been the end of the world because you fucked it up at first, told him, Don’t drag me into this, and he said, Sorry to inconvenience you. Immediately you said, small, Look, I love you. Please be okay. You waited for him to say, I love you too, or Thank you, or Yes. You’re still waiting. You’re not even screaming. Your seatmate dry-heaves into the air and he’s not looking great. Your ability to give and solve might be limited, but you can still cover your seatmate’s hand with yours. Even if the bag doesn’t inflate, oxygen still flows. Try it out while you still have time: Can I tell you something? He nods, and you start. This can’t be the end of the world. It has to be something else.
Take a Look at Yourself
Art by Andrey Larin