Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Quest For Michelle


From Tallahassee I watched hundreds of miles pass below me and time stood still. I saw roads with people creeping along as I always had, and flew over homes and wondered if someone was wondering if they ought to go, now, and see someone they loved. Charlotte, four hundred miles away, was reached in just over an hour, but I didn’t notice the time.
            I didn’t notice the airport much in Charlotte but did get something to eat. You should know at this point I have never been very close to my family, but I had sent out an email explaining I would be gone for a week. One of my sisters called my house, got Raymond, heard some tale about a sick girlfriend, and the world caught fire. With no desire to explain quite yet, I called Raymond, clamped down on all information, and awaited my flight.
            We lifted above the clouds and into the clear night sky from Charlotte. I was flying again. Twice in one day I felt that feeling of gravity being defied, the air dared, and as we banked away from the airport the full moon hung in the dark night sky in my window as the sunset died across the aisle. There was no Shrailer here, just a woman behind me named Sandy who talked incessantly. Her companion was a stranger to her, but Sandy advocated for the woman's warmth to the flight crew, claiming the woman had a condition and the coolness of the cabin caused her pain. Meanwhile, right outside of the window there were clouds forming below us, clouds above us, and we flew between layers of clouds causing intense darkness outside followed by the moonlight silvering us. The lights on the wings were vivid strobes in the close clouds but when the air opened up there were nearly invisible. Sandy was continuing her monologue as the plane rocked in the turbulence. Some of the passengers whispered aloud at the bouncing but to drop five hundred feet while at thirty thousand feet isn't a big deal at all. To drop that distance at four hundred feet is a bit of a problem.
I can't tell you how long the flight lasted. From Charlotte to Scranton isn't a very long distance but while some dosed and some chatted and some drank, I stared out of the window at a scene totally alien to me. The clouds were illuminated by the moon but the ground was gone. No man made lights could be seen. Suddenly, the lights of another airplane appeared far below us but crossing our path. I could barely make them out but the lights were traveling far too fast to be anything else. The clouds swallow them and no one else seemed to notice.
There were dark clouds and light clouds and the darkness of the clouds showed flashes of light. We were flying into a storm and the plane rocked. But the towering formations and their flashes, and the flat sea of clouds they penetrated mesmerized me. The roar of the engine drowned out any thunder there might have been but the lighting would not be denied. One brilliant flash lit up our world and people began to notice what was happening in the air around them. It was still stunningly beautiful. How could all of this not be solid enough to explore on foot? Why were there not teams of climbers scaling these mountains, even in the dark? The lightning revealed deeper canyons than we could see, higher mountains that we knew, and we flew through them all without touching anything. The plane bounced and the people whispered about it, and the plane moved through the storm and the moon illuminated the night around us as if we were the only humans on earth and this was the last flight out of reality and into a world of beauty and darkness.
As we descended the moon began to rise too high for me to see Her light. The darkness took us all and the lights on the wing strobe across the window like a warning. I could see streaks of rain in the flashing light, frozen in time and in my mind as elongated tears of the darkness. The plane went into the clouds and I remembered a pilot once told me his first flight purely by instrument was a leap of faith for him. He had seen it done before, but he had never done it himself. Lower and lower his plane flew, and he began to question everything he knew, but what else was there to do? He approached the runway completely blind to anything but a storm and at less than one thousand feet, with his wheels and flaps down and his mind screaming at him, he broke through the darkness perfectly aligned to the runway. “Wow!” he said, “all that stuff does work!” and his passengers were not amused. He went on to become a crop duster and at last count had laid a plane down in a place it did not belong four times.
“I can't see anything.” Sandy exclaimed as we descended. No one could. But the plane was coming down slowly and you hear about people being killed by falling limbs more often than falling planes.
“I can't see anything!” Sandy says louder this time, and I can see the woman on the flight crew looking at her, willing her to shut the hell up. They've done this before, you know.
“I can't see anything!” Sandy exclaims but I see lights. There are street lights below, security lights, lights on houses and roads and Scranton lies below us like a tiny model of a town. The clouds above us showers us with rain and there is lightning but we can see the ground again. The plane lands perfectly, smoothly, with a slight bump only, and we are now ground bound creatures again, slow moving and guided by lights. The woman in the seat ahead of me stands up but freezes in place, watching the plane empty. I nudge her a bit with my bag and she moves forward. We trudge out of the plane, out of the magical air, out of the storm, and suddenly it is past ten at night, and I have to rent a car, and drive in the same storm I just flew into. I have a Quest to complete. My journey is just beginning. Michelle is in the hospital and she is alone and she is scared. I have no idea how to get there. I have no way of knowing where the hospital is. I don't even know where I am. But Michelle needs me and I am going to find her and this journey has just only begun in the dark. My woman needs me. I am on my way.
Take Care,
Mike

Part Three later 

3 comments:

  1. Wow, great writing. The plane trip reminds me of a flight I took back in the early 80s to interview a notorious prisoner in the Ohio state prison system -- in the middle of a January snow storm. After the scary landing, in which NO passenger uttered a single word, just held their breath, I knew the movie scenes were all wrong about the screaming people on planes going down.

    Hope all went well on your trip!

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  2. I didn't have the urge to scream but the urge to hit Sandy arrived once or twice.

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  3. :)Love your descriptions of the clouds, they have always mesmerized me when I've flown. The other thing that fascinates me about flying is when there's large bodies of water below. When we flew out of Tampa to AZ in 2007, and then Sara and I flew to San Antonio in 2009, we flew over the Gulf of Mexico for a bit and it was so beautiful.

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