The plane seems to tilt slightly to the left the whole flight, like it’s making one wide circle and will end up back where we started, a quiet place I know mostly for its summer, where there are so few gates at the airport that each one gets a range of numbers. We’re flying low to the Catskills now, a place that is starting to feel more like home than the city. Because of the shear, the pilot says, the way down will be bumpy. This turns out to be an understatement, or else my nerves are just stuck straight up today like a porcupine’s quills. I have to go home, even though I’ve just come from it.
My nerves can build up a whole universe of what could happen. In trying to turn, this commuter vessel, the type of plane my dad likes to call a flying lawnmower, will flip over. We will fall upside down in the blue dark, limbs flailing like the inflatable dancers at car dealerships (this is really what they’re called), gasp in the subzero air a second or two before being knocked out. What I could do without is having to see it happen to other people.
I've forgotten what it felt like when we first rose above the clouds and flew in the direction of the sunset, the horizon getting less red by the minute, backtracking a time zone. It was as quiet and still as my mind usually is, as my mind has become since I started bothering with meditation. Bothering, and then, after a month or two, running into its open arms. I think of some visual comparison of this, with the help of the sky, like the ten-year challenge floating around social media: 30,000-foot view of Earth on the right, crowded subway train of faces smashed against other people’s armpits on the left. My brain after meditation, my brain before it.
I’m convinced that it’s supposed to happen this way, the plane funneling down a drain of sky. I’ve gotten so much of what I wanted, it seems only fair it would be short-lived, a comet of happiness. But not yet. I’d like more, please. I’ll give up some things if that means bringing the sources of my happiness closer, strengthening my magnetic field to draw them near.
A whole day can be made by one thing. Yesterday, it was a rabbit hopping over my dog to escape us, deciding that the best direction to run was away from the houses and the road, deeper into the woods, even if she’d have to make herself known to us to do so. She was almost the size of the dog, brown and uncamouflaged in the fresh snow. Her footprints come in threes, much bigger than a deer’s. It seems unfair that her coat changes colors for us and the rest of the predators.
At the end of the day, walking the dog in distant Brooklyn, my biggest peeve is not knowing what I don’t know. All my idols are in their 50s and 60s. Seemingly every book I’ve picked up in the past three years, from Eileen Myles’ memoir to works by Maggie Nelson, Rich Roll, Bruce Springsteen and Stephen King, contains these words: and then I stopped drinking. These are my people. But I’d like rush toward their wisdom without aging a single year.
Twenty minutes of listening to nothing every morning helps with the little things, the everyday things. Grievances disappear like popped bubbles before I can even wrap my mind around them. I watch people grab at drinks, business-like, with downturned mouths, and I feel a surge of gratitude that this isn’t me, snatching at a drink before doing anything else, like a drink is a key to a door. Wrong door. There are doors, I’ve learned, that don’t need keys. I don’t believe I’ll ever have the urge to drink again. My life now is something I imagined for myself twenty years ago, defacing French textbooks in their margins with fictional stories about the book’s illustrations, hoping to one day be a novelist. Coaxing my old friend out of the background of a family photo and asking him if we could be something more than friends. Just a couple of reasons why I always think my planes will make the news.
—Brooklyn, NY, January 22, 2019