An excerpt from They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us,
Two Dollar Radio, November 2017. Copyright Two Dollar Radio, 2017.
It is early, and inside of an airplane sitting outside of the San Francisco Airport, a mother is asking a person two seats ahead of me to switch seats, so that she can have a window seat for her son, and he looks at the world outside of this metal container that is dragging us back to somewhere in the waiting Midwest. I have this fear of heights, but I do find the appeal in looking out of windows during flights. In Oakland, where I spent the past five days reading poems in hotel rooms with friends that I only get to see a couple times a year. Two nights ago, one of them ran up to the roof of the hotel at night and looked over, everything below was an impossible darkness. It’s that kind of height I find myself uncomfortable with. Some would tell me not to think of it as a fear of heights so much as a fear of falling. Planes work if you can manage to not think of the machinery. The way I walk into a store and buy what my body is demanding without thinking of the labor that carried the product to that moment. But, this mother wants her son to understand the world from this height and the person in the window seat she wants isn’t moving. So she is loud now, shouting in the name of her child, who also isn’t moving, and who seems preoccupied with the small screen in front of him, where two cartoon characters are wrestling each other over some treasure. I am thinking of what it must be like to not have a desire to get close to heaven at a time like this. A time when there is just a hint of morning coloring the sky as the waning darkness fights against it, making it so that everything above is the color of blood pushing its way across a dark surface This is the part of the flight I live for: being pulled into the impossible beauty above and feeling like I could touch it if I wanted to. I’m not particularly excited about going back home today, though I do miss it. The dying summer and covering the Midwest in a kind of heat that doesn’t afford anyone the mercy of Oakland’s proximity to water. It is one thing to love where you’re from and miss it, and another to fall in love somewhere else and then have to pull away. When the mother gives up on the person two seats ahead of me, she makes eye contact with me and my precious window seat. I pretend to not notice, nodding my head along to imagined music coming out of my detached headphones. But I’m a poor actor, and have no luck convincing her of my being oblivious to her suffering. Standing over me, she pleads, explaining that her son has never even been on a plane before, though has loved watching them from below. And she wants him to have a window seat so that he’ll be maybe be less afraid. And I know that I have been afraid and found comfort in seeing. In the turning of my head to that which I fear. And so I surrender my seat and I watch the eager mother carry her son in her arms, to that which she thinks will make him whole. I push myself into an aisle seat and prepare for the long flight home, considering that perhaps life is too short for fear. There is always going to be something outside, waiting to kill us all.