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Archive for April 2012


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Every morning since the world began, this has happened: The sun like a rosebud bursts up from the horizon and blossoms – a pink bouquet – across the sky.

It happened the morning the Paleolithic (wo)man painted the first horse in Lascaux. It happened every morning before then. It happened the afternoon Gaius Julius was stabbed by his friends in the forum and his blood dribbled into puddles like little red poppies; it happened the day your great-great-grandfather was born; it will happen the day I am to die.

It happened this morning. You may not have seen it from the earth. I saw it, because I was in an airplane above the hiding bushel of clouds.

By the time we were 1000 feet above the ground and still rising steeply, the sun had burnt off the dew covering the windows. The pink light blanketed the innards of the airplane. I took a deep breath, leaned back against the seat, and enjoyed the heady feeling of thinning blood in the higher altitude air.

The seat vibrated mildly, as did the thin blue carpet beneath my stockinged feet. The fabric on the seats was also blue: deep cobalt blue with curving cerulean lines dissecting. Apexes of purple mountains pierced the pink clouds outside the window. They were mountains like clouds or clouds like mountains – for all I stared, it was not easy to tell where one ended and the other began.

Since I was a toddler, every airplane I have ever been on has been this. Me. The recycling air. The ahem-ahem of the engine.

On this airplane that I was on this morning, it is worth noting (or not) that almost all of my companions were men. There were Western men wearing khaki pants with too many pockets and NY baseball caps. There were Arab men wearing thick neckties ending in a point well above their navels. They chatted amongst each other, the hum of their voices less alive than that of the engine.

Above every seat, a stylized orange cigarette glowed with a red “x” across it – remnants of the long bygone days when air-travel was a sophisticated cocktail party. We were flying south, following the curves of the Tigris River down the country like a guide rope. Beneath us through the gaps in the clouds, pinpricks of flame dotted the landscape, and smoke spiraled up to meet us – gases being burnt off oil wells.

All of the flight attendants were women. Some had covered their hair in wraps colored the same green as the airplane’s painted wings. One – with her hair hanging loosely – wheeled a cart down the center aisle. She passed out food boxes filled with a margarine, a strawberry jelly, a rubbery bread roll, and a little plastic knife.

Rustling came from every direction as the men, as one, snapped open the loose boxes and dug in to their breakfasts.

Those men: It’s worth noting that they didn’t really exist. They sat there and took up space and air as they chewed and chattered; but they were only airplane set pieces, window dressings to my world.  I neither spoke to them today nor will I ever see them again. They do not have back-stories and families and futures.

For the time that I am up on the airplane (nearer my God to Thee), neither do I. This airplane was a Bombardier CRJ-900ER. As such, it had a longer wingspan than other airplanes of comparable sizes, and a tail with a greater Anhedral angle. But it was also exactly the same as every other airplane that has flown since the world began. Since I was three months old, I have been on airplanes.  I have been on privately-owned Cessnas in Nantucket, been on UN CRJ-100ERs that later crashed in Congo, and been strapped into the jump-seat in the cockpit of a Boeing 777-300 as it landed at the Philadelphia International Airport after a trans-Atlantic flight.

Every airplane has been, for a dot in time, for a glimmer and a wink, the same airplane. The clicks of latches of overhead compartments. The grinding of the landing gears. In the midst of the millennia of rosy-fingered dawns that ever were and that are to come, there is a pinprick that is Me in the Morning on an Airplane above the Clouds. For a snap of God’s fingers in time, I exist, and I exist on an airplane, ageless and directionless, a being, a speck.

This morning, as we began to land, sunlight streamed in through the windows, daytime yellow.  It shifted and danced in stiff shafts as the airplane banked. It reflected off the Tigris, setting it on fire – the river was so bright I couldn’t look at it directly.  We zoomed forward through the golden air, in the airplane canister like a rifle shell, us like so much shot inside. The mountains were gone and we dipped beneath the clouds. It was flat, flat, flat to the horizon as the airplane turned over the sand-covered houses of B*ghd*d.


Written by ilchwl

3 April 2012 at 4:35 pm

Posted in Uncategorized