In the blur and the confusion, there’d been cocktails, lots of conversation, and one weeping woman, seated on the floor of one of the aisles. No one bothered about her; their eyes skimmed over her, not really seeing her at all. Her pain was hers alone.
The kid seated next to him was in her teens. All she ever said was, “I’m going home.” She was like a one-trick parrot, trained to repeat the same sentence. He ignored her with ease. He couldn’t recall where he was going, and it was a surprising revelation when he discovered that he was at peace with the fact that he may never get there.
“Pour me another!” he yelled into the chaotic banter all around him.
A flight attendant showed up at his side with a bottle of liquor. She poured the amber liquid into his glass and grinned. She was smiling, but there were tears building up in her blue eyes.
“Drink up, sir. Let me know if you need anything else.”
A man and woman towards the front of the aircraft were entangled in a passionate kiss. He watched as he sipped his drink.
“And where are you off to?” an elderly lady sitting in the seat in front of him asked.
“Who cares? This is my element.”
She nodded somberly.
“Yes, I see. I’m scared.”
“Fear is a waste of time, lady. We’ve been racing for far too long. I’ll take the break. Who knows when we’ll get another?”
“I’m going home,” the teenage girl chipped in.
“Why is it always home with you? Do you really wanna be sucked back into that shit? This is the place for me,” he said.
The elderly lady frowned at him.
“Of course you are, honey,” she said to the girl.
The girl closed her eyes and smiled in satisfaction.
“We’ve been here an awfully long time,” the lady said.
“Time? Time’s irrelevant. You know what I could go for right now? A line.”
“I had so many plans,” she said as she twisted the top off of the prescription bottle she’d produced from her purse. “So much wasted time that I’ll never get back.”
She flung a pill into her mouth and washed it down with her drink.
“Hey! Flight attendant!” he called.
From somewhere and nowhere at all, the flight attendant appeared. Her mascara ran down in long lines. He thought of black veins. She poured his refill in silence and scampered off to pour another.
“You have to feel sorry for her. I wouldn’t want to be working for this long,” the lady said.
“I’m going home,” the girl mumbled from beside him.
Her eyes were still closed.
“Denial, huh?” he scoffed, tilting his head at the girl.
A man stood on his seat and shouted obscenities as he tore his shirt off of his body.
“Rowdy bunch we have here. What do you do?” the lady asked.
“I want and need. It’s what we all do, lady.”
“I think we may be dead.”
“We aren’t that lucky.”
He gulped his medicine down from the glass in his hand.
“You’ve a bad attitude, young man,” the lady observed.
The weeping woman moaned. She fixed him with her wet eyes.
“I don’t like this roller coaster!” she cried to him.
“Yeah? I don’t think any of us do-that’s why we deal in our own ways.” He shook his head in regret, then turned back to the old lady. “She thinks she’s special?”
“Some people just can’t cope. Pain is relative.”
“I’ll drink until I feel nothing.”
“We all will.”
She sliced a hand through the air and that’s when he noticed that everyone was drinking. Even the girl next to him held a glass.
“She’s too young, isn’t she?” he asked.
“We all were. It starts so young.”
“I’m scared, too,” he finally admitted. “I think we’re lost in more ways than one.”
“I don’t think we want to be found,” she said, taking a drink from her wine glass.
“I do…eventually. My family…my friends…they worry about me.”
The plane hit a patch of turbulence. Everyone whooped and clapped. The lady asked no one in particular for a refill of wine, and the flight attendant again showed up, filling drinks up to the rim.
“Between you and me, I think someone’s trying to show us something,” she whispered to him. “Are you hungry?”
The lady laughed.
“You know we don’t eat when we drink. It disturbs our buzz.”
“Still, I thought I’d ask,” the flight attendant replied.
“Where are we going?” he asked.
“Nowhere-or, at least, nowhere good,” the flight attendant answered.
The interior of the plane suddenly brightened. Clouds floated outside of the windows for the first time since…since…well, he couldn’t remember, but it sure was nice seeing them. A hush fell on the drunken crowd as everyone stared in awe.
“Was this just a dream?” he asked the lady.
“Not if you don’t want it to be,” the lady said.
“I’m going home,” the girl whispered.
“I think you may be, after all. I think we all may be,” she told the girl.
“Folks, we’re going to be landing in twenty minutes. Was this the sweetest of reveries? Where are we going now? I don’t know about you all, but I’m relieved to have another chance,” the pilot said on the intercom.
“Well, I’ll be-I forgot we had a pilot,” the lady said.
“I think the pilot forgot that, too,” he murmured.
The people took their seats. He had an idea that everyone was reflecting on their extended trip. The weeping woman cupped her chin in her hands. The elderly lady faced forward. The girl sat up straight and opened her eyes. He leaned over and gazed out at the clouds.
He was going home.