- Nineteen thirty-seven was Icarus in seamed stockings. My grandmother spent nights praying for the blanched bones of Amelia Earhart, femur and sacrum floating somewhere in a blackened sea. Gravity could kill a gal. Now, Google tells me that my fear of flying is an inherited nervousness, a bred-in-the-bone type of thing.
- WebMD prescribes knowledge. I learn about Harriet Quimby and Queen Bessie Coleman, early female pilots. Dead in their thirties, cockpits exploding without warning. I imagine a lone parachute floating out of the wreckage, silken and monarch-like in the sky.
- In the garden, Sasha tells me she is happy I get some time off. She makes it sound like a vacation, but I am obligated to fly. When she asks me what’s wrong I can only water the plants. People are so comfortable on planes they’ve made a whole club out of fucking miles-high. I am ashamed of my ridiculousness. But later, I tell her the truth when we are wrist-deep in the earth.
- “Fear of flying,” the webpage psychologist writes, “is a couched fear of relinquishing control.” As if letting go of all that bodily warning is easy. I read about aerodynamics, the structure of Boeing 747s, the years of pilots’ training. It isn’t enough. And I caution myself against equating education with trustworthiness.
- I read the article about the flight attendant and the pilot. How he’ll only be criminally charged if he returns to the island where he attacked her: palm trees, hotel layover, her heels kicking frantically into his flesh. I picture her dressing in the company’s colours, returning to the cabin, repeating the spiel about emergency exits as the earth gives way.
- It is still so far away, and then it is tomorrow. The night before, I dream of the ghost of my grandmother, her body bruised in a sea of crushed metal, a sea of blue birds and bones. I dream of ghostly women plied open, their organs airborne. I dream of dangerous engines, a lathe of waves, winglessness.
- I stand in line at midnight, clutching my passport. The red-eye was cheapest. Sasha has loaned me her gray silk dress, and this alone keeps me calm: the fabric extravagant against my skin and the faint familiar smell of her, soil and strawberry leaves. This dress, her shared self, deserves to fly. If I plummet to death in a fiery crash, I tell myself, at least I will go out in style.
- On the plane, I have a window seat. It is dark and plotted evenly, like a little grave.
The man beside me asks, “Business or pleasure?” When I don’t reply, he laughs and tells me I need to relax. I don’t know how to relax, so I open the in-flight magazine. I hope this is a good way to end a conversation.
- A woman puckers her lips from the pages. She is surrounded by feathers and the engine underneath me starts shaking. “You’re a very interesting, mysterious girl,” the man continues, but his words are liquified by the engine’s shuddering so I can only hear — you’re a girl. Then we are moving and it is all really happening so fast.
- This is the feeling of surrendering your centre of gravity. As I watch the city shrink beneath me I feel my body become weightless and irrelevant, strapped into an altitude I can’t adjust. I am only anchored by the things I’ve buried, all the things other women have carefully buried inside me. In my mouth, vomit blossoms like a flower.
these words by Sarah Christina Brown were inspired by the art of Tran Nguyen
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