Denver to Chicago to Paris, 1.16.2014

We fly through cloud and mist, climbing still, I think. I have felt dry and stretched for a couple of days (“butter stretched over too much bread,” as Bilbo might say). I feel like I’m puckering at the edges.

There is a beautiful man across the way. His outline draws my eyes more than is strictly necessary. There is a perfect sharp upturn at the end of his nose. Between us, a large man in a red shirt snores in that way that only corpulent red-shirted men can. His arms are crossed and he is very upright in his slumber. Inside his head, dreams. Outside the window, the curvature of the earth at 33,000 feet…
I feel sleepy, warmth streams in through the window, the atmosphere is thin here.

A sudden, tense silence: the blunt moment of realization that we are about to do an inhuman thing. We can make ourselves fly, but we cannot make it feel natural, no. We are about to travel, in a matter of hours, what would be impossible for our little clay bodies, and so we feel a little like apes at a banquet in the sky, pretending to be gods.

It is the smell that gets me. I thrill at the flight: the view, the impossibility, the sheer pomp and circumstance of the physics. But the air sticks in my lungs, it stinks in my nostrils, it is cold but not like winter, dry, but not like altitude, it hollows as it sustains. The atmospheric melange of gasses that we breathe in our terrestrial life truly has something special about it, something that you only notice by its absence (it doesn’t suffocate you, but only just).

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