Sometimes, actually all the time, most of the time, hopefully, for those of us who aren’t neurotic, we don’t even consider the times our deaths are close, our lives immediately more tenuous. Because really, our deaths are always with us, hidden inside every moment, every sudden derrame cerebral, every hidden black widow spider, every gas leak, every car crash, every random mugging on the street.
It’s funny how we have this idea of the TSA security checks as stressful because it’s true. This agent is sweet as he says hello to the pre-scheduled passengers. That agent is reticent, quiet, unresponsive as she checks our boarding passes against our IDs. That one is a little tired and monotone as she reminds everyone to take off their belts, their shoes. I come out past the small-millimeter wave scanner, putting my arms down, the agent barking, okay, this way, and struggling to rapidly put away my computer, put my shoes back on, sling my belt around my waist, and I realize that my heart is beating a little quickly, that I’m a little nervous, that there’s no reason to rush. Everything is fine and really I’m haven’t done anything. I was prepared for the flight; I didn’t bring bottles of liquids; there’s nothing to explain. There’s no reason to worry.
Adam and I drank a bloody mary. It was ten in the morning and this was the beginning of our very short vacation to San Francisco. But really, you know me. I’d drink a bloody mary on any morning, any morning that I didn’t have to be responsible, to report to someone else. And then the flight was delayed: it was fleet week in San Francisco and there was an air show and President Obama had landed at the airport and everything was to be delayed by two hours. It was literally President Obama’s fault that our flight had been delayed.
Michael, the flight attendant, hands us free drinks “on Obama” and asks if my boyfriend and I “going home.”
There are times I become worried, even at home. I don’t lock the door when I step out to get coffee across the street then worry that some stranger has slipped inside the apartment in my absence. I worry that the cat will be run over. I worry that I’ve left the stove on, though I haven’t used it in days, and that the building will go up while I’m at work. A couple got mugged the other day down on Mississippi Avenue and maybe I’m next, maybe I’ll have been listening to music with John at his house late one night and on my walk down someone will take advantage of the hour and my inebriation.
The waiting, the sitting is hard enough, but it’s the constant state of tension that really gets to me while traveling. The tension between gravity and motion that one can distract oneself from but which stays just there at the edge of consciousness. The tension between here and there, between leaving and not yet arriving, heightens one’s sense of vulnerability. I hate to think about what I would leave behind if my life just ended. Suspended in that fluid state I have time to think about how fragile every moment is, how fragile my existence is, particularly as this suspension squeezes through wind and clouds and place and time 30,000 feet over the planet.
How do you stop though? How can you refuse to take this flight, to forego biking to work, to stop leaving the house? I just have to take another sip, wipe the sweat of my palms on my jeans, and beginning writing. The two hours of this flight will pass and we will arrive into another movement, a travel across a city, a difference experience, world without end.