39,000 Feet: A Short Story
Note: I was over 30,000 feet in the air when I wrote this. And I felt so much better after I did.
If she had a watch, she’d probably be counting the seconds. Her phone was off because it had to be, so watching prayerfully as each digit increased was impossible. An hour and forty-seven minutes of terror. “Either pray or worry, but don’t do both.” She could hear her grandmother’s voice now, pensive and heavy with wisdom. Usually grandma’s words rung true, but right now they were extremely difficult to believe. How could she? She felt every jolt, tremor and turn. Turbulence. She made a mental note to look that up when she got home; if she got home. She pressed her lids together hard, exhaled and shook her head, trying to free her mind from her dad’s trademark pessimism. Why did the “worst-case scenario” trait have to be hereditary? she thought to herself. Her stomach suddenly lurched in discomfort as the craft fought through the deceptively innocent fluffy clouds and made a dip. In frenzy, she grasped the armrest on one side of her trembling body and the bottom of her seat with the other hand. Her fingernails dug into the soft leather, eyes wide. She looked to her neighbor to read him, wondering if anyone else had felt that. Or even cared. He didn’t. His eyes didn’t break their cadence as they scanned Chapter 46 of a thick black book.
She was angry that she was the only one so aware; yet silly that she was the only one who seemed afraid. How long have we been up here? She slyly checked Focused Reader for a wristwatch out of the corner of her eye. Nothing. She cursed herself for investing in any and everything but a watch. “Excuse me,” she called to the passing flight attendant pushing her trolley of overpriced snacks. “What time is it?” She searched her own face for a smile. A mustered up wince would have to suffice. The attendant smiled back sweetly and checked her arm. “Ten forty-five, but my watch might be fast.” She thanked her and shrunk back into her seat, partially relieved. It had been an hour since take off. Only forty-something minutes of misery left to endure wide awake, armed with nothing but her thought notebook and a leaky blue ballpoint pen. She scribbled some thoughts to ease her mind. She read old notes. She even tried reading over the shoulder of her seatmate, who was making headway in his literature. She glanced quickly. Chapter 48. Impressive. At least he’s at peace. Maybe next time I’ll bring a book instead of my laptop. She scolded herself for another 10 minutes. At least time was passing. It distracted her from the bumps.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” the staticky intercom interrupted her train of thought. “We are preparing to make our descent to
. Please find your seats and
fasten your seatbelts.” She exhaled and tilted her head over to the window. The
bright lights of LaGuardia Airport New York
pierced through the vast night sky. They seamed to beam up at her. Stacy could
finally smile back.