“Deep breaths… Act natural” I think to myself while staring out the window. My battle with anxiety may be a difficult one today if I’m pulled away from the sanctuary of the airplane wing. The structure is strong, and safe, drawing my eyes into the lines. Tim, my other safety net, parted ways with me a few minutes earlier toward the back of the plane; after hoisting my carry-on into the overhead bin. We opted for cheaper seats and sit next to strangers. The weights in my stomach are making me regret that decision… ”Focus on the great adventure we’re about to have all week.” I take a deep breath, close my eyes, and try to relax; allowing my nails to retract from the pit they‘ve left in my palm. I fold my arms, creating a shield in an effort of feeling extra secure.
People pass me by. Though I’m focusing out the window, my peripherals catch their movements. Maybe the seat next to me will remain empty after takeoff and Tim can join me after all. I sit forward and reach under my seat, pulling out my book I’d committed myself to marking up with edits during the flight. No time like the present, it will help take my mind away from the suffocating proximity of the people around me. I finger the corners of the of the manuscript until the words of the first chapter appear.
“The sky illuminates in a sea of fire as the sun sets over the city of Simbhora. The air is crisp and the breeze teases my hair in a gentle dance. I look upon the city, lights in the street flickering in their purple hue to prepare for nightfall. I turn, facing the building doors behind me. Examining the reflection I see-”
A raspy twang stands out of the vocal hum beside me, forcing my attention away from the words. With a glance, I catch a white t-shirt fluttering with laughter as his companion shoves his shoulder forward, nudging him out of the way as he passes. Back to the words on my page, “Examining the reflection I see before me. Straightening my posture to reflect the pride I should feel with the task that’s been ent-”
“Sorry.” The twang speaks again as my minds illuminated vacancy sign on the seat next to me fades. I catch my breath, the proximity of another person invading my bubble causing my skin to tingle.
“Oh, no. You’re fine.” My glance doesn’t break from the page as I respond. A sweet musky smell pierces the air. It’s subtle, but my sensitive sniffer picks up on it easily. It’s almost like being back in the office with Sterling. I shift positions in my seat and take a deep breath to regain focus on my words. After pulling a pen from my ponytail, I make a mark on the page and bring the end to my lips, pinching the tip between them.
The cabin appears to be calming down and the attendant is standing in the aisle ready to begin her rehearsed pre-flight instructions. I watch her intently, even though I’ve seen it before.
Once she’s finished, the pilot sounds over the intercom. “Good afternoon Salt Lake City. This is Delta flight number 4477 to Chicago. The sky is clear and we are in third priority for takeoff. Our estimated departure wait is 5 minutes. Thank you for flying Delta.” I only make it two pages into my manuscript before we’re up for departure. “Thank you for your patience, folks. We are cleared for takeoff.”
I snap my gaze from the pages and look out the window to examine the mechanics of the wing as they go through their routine check. Humming and whooshing from the engines powering up fill the silence of the cabin. A gentle push from acceleration sets me back into my seat. I pinch my lips together, hiding my smile as we speed down the runway, vibrations from the tarmac going straight to my bones. The vibrations cease when the nose pulls up, pressing my innards downward. I pinch my lips together, trying to wipe the forced smile on my face; choking on the chuckle stuck in my throat. With eyes closed, I keep my head motionless on the rest of my seat; an attempt to keep the motion sickness at bay.
The satisfactory smile sneaks its way to the corners of my lips. I assume it’s satisfaction I‘m feeling, because that’s how I feel after every flight takeoff. Satisfied. If I’d realized my love for this feeling many years earlier maybe I would have gone to flight school. Maybe, then, my motion sickness wouldn’t be so strong if I had early exposure. I don’t feel old enough to have motion problems as severe as my Dad’s. Afterall, I’m only 26.