November 20th, 2012
You hate flying. Your stomach turns inside out when the plane takes off, and your feet push against the floor, trying to grip it. Everywhere around you are strangers, strangers with their own lives and their own thoughts. You look over to the person sitting next to you. It’s a large man wearing a Kalamazoo sweatshirt and red headphones. At that moment, you are faced with a predicament. Should you be the type of person that talks to people on the plane or should you sit there silently, wallowing in your own fears? The man looks over at you for a moment. You both share a connection but he looks away and turns towards the window. You settle in your seat and close your eyes, waiting for the terrifying sensation of lifting off.
December 23rd, 2012
Around every corner of the airport is a tree standing tall, composed of only bulbous ornaments in shades of neon blues, purples, and pinks. You wait with the highest calorie Starbucks drink they serve and stare at the gate sign. Your plane’s departure is already fifteen minutes late. You sigh and rim the cup with your fingertip, trying to push the anxiety away. Fifteen minutes turns into a half an hour, then two hours, then three hours. You’ve waded your way through a good portion of your iTunes playlist and downed your second Starbucks drink when they start to board the passengers. You sit down in the aisle seat, always the aisle. The allure of the window seat is tempting. You’ve always had a fascination with clouds and when you were a kid you thought they were heaven’s version of a trampoline. But you have to sit on the aisle to have room to breathe and stretch your legs. The window seat is like a capsule. It encloses you on all sides and makes it difficult to escape, should an emergency arise. As the loading door closes, the flight attendants begin going through the safety protocol. You take out the packet and study it closely. You notice that you are one of the few looking at the packet. Your mind swells with the various scenarios detailed in the packet, and the thought of being surrounded by uninformed people makes you feel dizzy. Your stomach begins to feel like the spin cycle of a washing machine, and as the plane takes off you grab the small paper bag for the first time and empty your hopes for humanity into it. The attendant comes to collect the bag and holds it away from her gingerly. The person next to you, this time, an old woman with glasses covering the majority of her face, glances at you and rolls her eyes in disgust.
February 15th, 2013
As a kid, you always associated a snowstorm with getting the day off from school and playing outside with your family. But once you became an adult, snow, like everything else, becomes complicated. You’re sitting in the airport a day later than scheduled and after a full night of using your backpack as a pillow; your hope of getting home is dwindling fast. Your mother calls, her voice frantic. She asks if you have everything that you need and assures you that she’ll be waiting for by baggage claim. She asks if you were scared when you had to stay in the airport by yourself all night. You answer no because you have never liked the idea of revealing your fears, even to her. She ends the call by telling you she loves you and is excited to see you. You answer back, you too, and hang up the phone. You wish the boy from home could pick you up and cradle you in his arms, but delays have a funny way of ruining plans. When you land she is there, waiting with a tired smile and bags under her eyes. She opens her arms to you and you walk into them, closing your eyes as your head rests on her shoulder. You hear her words, “Welcome home,” and your body relaxes.
March 29th, 2013
You used to think that taking off was the worst part about flying. Now you realize that it’s not. Taking off is the beginning, the start of every adventure. What you dread now is the moment when the wheels touch the ground. When the wheels pop out of the bottom of the airplane in preparation, you can’t help but remember the time you broke your arm jumping off the swing set in your backyard. The moment when your arm hit the woodchips is that same popping and every time you hear it, you wince in pain. But after the wheel pops, your mind eases and you are flooded with the excitement of being that much closer to home. Waiting for you at baggage claim, this time, is the boy from home wearing dark jeans, a button-down, and a leather jacket. You smile at him and run into his embrace. You kiss him and stroke his cheek playfully while he holds you tight. You walk to the car at the end of the lot hand in hand with him. You trace the lines of his palm from memory. You reach the car and he leans his forehead into yours, closes his eyes, and breathes those three beautiful words. In the car layers are shed and the many days spent apart are forgotten.
November 26th, 2013
You’ve begun to notice something, as you have become an experienced flyer. You are comfortable with the process and you know the safety routines by heart. But, there is always this split second thought that you have whenever you are on an airplane, that this could be the moment when you die. Something could go wrong and your last moment of thought and breath could be spent in a sea of strangers. All you would remember are eyes, frantic eyes, worried eyes, scared eyes, and lonely eyes. You close yours and attempt to push the thoughts away. You cradle your stomach and tell your mind over and over to stop. You bend over in your seat, trying to contain all of the parts of you that feel cold.
You feel a tap on your shoulder. It’s a girl with a cast on her foot, motioning to the seat next to you. You nod and get up, pity washing over you as she struggles to sit down. You both sit down and you watch her try to get comfortable. She squirms a little but sees you watching, and shrugs her shoulders. You try to get up the courage to talk to her, say something funny, talk about the weather, or anything. But instead, you put your headphones on and try to drown out the world.
During the flight, the pilot warns you of turbulence. You hold your head in your hands while the girl next to you remains calm. The airplane begins to shake and your entire body becomes uneasy. Everyone around you seems to be used to the sensation but you, having never felt it before, hold the small paper bag up to your face and use it for the second time. You look up and everyone is watching. You wipe your mouth with a napkin and attempt to hide in what little space you have. The girl next to you glances sympathetically.
December 20th, 2013
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, except for when you miss the connecting flight, thus being stuck in Washington D.C. for three hours. You hate being surrounded by strangers. It’s hard enough to trust the people that you surround yourself with, much less people that you have absolutely no experience with. You survey the strangers within close proximity. There’s a woman walking around with extremely tight pants and heels. Then there is a man with two kids, a boy, and a girl, who watch the planes as if they are some alien invention, something way too incredible to be built with human hands. The little girl sees you and waves. You’ve always envied the lack of fear that kids possess. As you’ve gotten older fear has found a hub within you and shrouded you like an overcast sky. But you shrug it off and wave back at the sweet little girl. The hours pass, you watch the giant television above you, news stories flickering across the screen. Your anxiety grows as the boarding process begins and you take your seat. You attempt to get comfortable when the man and his two children sit behind you. Soon after you feel a kick at the back of your seat, and you rub your temples in annoyance.
February 14th, 2014
Flying on Valentine’s Day may be one of the most depressing events that you have ever endured. So many people walk with red eyes and puffed up cheeks from crying, whether they are the single lonely people or the separated lovers flying to various locations. The airport is decorated with lots of hearts, and all of the shops have sales on candy. When you’re on the plane, the attendants begin the safety speeches and a few people take the packets out and look at them. You are not one of them because at this point you have completely memorized every scenario of every emergency possible and prepared for it. During the flight, there are a few moments of turbulence. You grip the armrests, longing for some sense of security. The woman sitting behind you starts to complain about the rocking and rolling that she feels in her stomach. Soon even the men in suits wearing large headphones notice the turbulence and that split second look comes across their faces. Next to you is an older gentleman wearing a newsboy cap and a thick sweater. You share a look; he is terrified, and you feel strangely relaxed.
As the turbulence ends, you find yourself almost missing the unsettling sensation. This time the twists and turns gave you a feeling of spontaneity almost like a rollercoaster, but with more freedom. The plane begins to land and you are unsatisfied. Who knew that this was the type of feeling that you had been searching for? You get off the plane and go to baggage claim and he is there. He smiles at you and as you walk towards him you feel the effect of distance and look down. He kisses you on the cheek and grabs your luggage. As you walk to the parking lot, your fingertips graze with his, but soon return to your side.
March 28th, 2014
You’ve noticed that you only record the dates when you fly to your home, your original home. You suppose it’s always exciting to get a break from your busy college life. You often get homesick for the flat land and the fresh lake water of the Midwest. The busy streets of Boston grow tiring and you relish in the chance for some peace and quiet. You guess it’s the excitement of returning to where you’re most comfortable that excites you most. When coming back to school there is a numbness that is ever present, and the flights never seem to have issues when you return to the world of work and late nights and heartache.
This time, there is yet another delay on the way home. Your mother hates when you get delays. She always sounds worried and panicky on the phone. You tell her everything is going to be fine and that she has nothing to worry about, but it is only a temporary bandage to her worries. You can hear the exasperation in her final sigh. As she hangs up you tell her you love her, but you don’t know if she heard you.
You spend the hour left in waiting time walking around the airport. It is full of shops and restaurants and coffee bars that lure you in but sell only highly overpriced food and t-shirts. You hear the call from your gate and rush over. You wait until they call zone three to board. Zone three, otherwise known, as the people unwilling to spend an extra hundred dollars on rows one through four, often get dirty looks from the first class passengers. You just roll your eyes and your carry-on down the ramp and into the plane. You sit next to a middle-aged man with hazel green eyes and dress clothes. He smiles at you and puts his hand out for a handshake. You shake hands and sit down.
“So, where are you headed?’ the man with hazel green eyes asks. You glance up at him.
“Ann Arbor. I’m from there and it’s my spring break.”
“I see. I’m from Detroit. Spent some time working on some apartment complexes in Boston.”
“You’re an architect?”
“Yep, always been building things ever since I was a kid, figured I should probably do what I love to do.” As the man with hazel green eyes speaks, you watch how his hands map out his artistry. Throughout the hour and a half flight, you engage in conversation with him. You laugh and talk and for the first time, you feel grateful that you have made a connection with someone.
May 16th, 2014
You’re flying home for the summer. The two friends that accompanied you on the ride to the airport squeeze you tight as you gather your belongings and wave goodbye. You go through security and sit patiently at the gate. You board on time with your carry-on and backpack, seating yourself in the window seat for the first time. Looking out the window, you see a blue sky with a few sparse clouds, perfect flying weather.
Audrey Blaufuss is a senior in college about to graduate with a degree in creative writing. She is from Toledo, Ohio but has attended the University of Maine at Farmington for the last three and a half years. She has studied many different types of writing from fiction to screenplays and writes to discover subtlety in emotion and to push the boundaries of comfort. She hopes to continue writing for many years and find a career that deals with writing. If she has any free time, she likes to listen to old jazz on her record player and drink far too much tea.