I haven't flown since the1980’s and it isn't for the lack of trying. Yet I haven't been able to reach escape velocity of the Confederacy for a couple of decades and the trips I have taken have all been to Florida, Texas, Tennessee once but never far north. Michelle and I were going to spend a week together, explore the Pocono Mountains, go to New York City and be tourists and generally get me out of my comfort zone of mutts and humidity. Her heart attack on Paris changed out plans somewhat to the extent that there would be far less hiking and walking around the city but I was still going to visit. The day before I was due to leave she called me very late at night and told me she was calling an ambulance.
The next day, six hours before my flight, Michelle told me she didn't know what was wrong, but she would be in the hospital for a couple of days, maybe, and she was hurting. She said I could postpone the trip if I wanted to, maybe sometime later. I thought about doing just that because I hate hospitals. I wouldn't be of much help and who know if Michelle would really want me to come? I thought about what would happen if it was me, and I realized she would still come if it was me. I realized that if I didn't go it would define who I was just as clearly as it would define who I was if I did go. I go angry. I got angry at a universe that seemed to conspire to keep me in The South and I got mad at a Universe that would keep me from the woman I loved, and I got mad that whenever something happened in my life there as always a very good reason not to do something.
I had planned to get one of Elbow’s friends to look after the dogs but just a few hours earlier I had called her with the bad news. I picked up the phone and told her, “I am getting on that damn plane.”
“It’s the right thing to do.” Elbow told me, and I realized she knew. That was what this was all about, really, was doing the right thing. I packed my bags, went and picked Raymond up, kissed the mutts good-bye, and headed to the airport.
Leave the light on , baby, because I am on my way.
Getting through security in Tallahassee wasn’t nearly the hassle I was told it would be. The TSA people were very nice and very efficient. I went through security and all the rest of the stuff so quickly I would up with about an hour on my hands. Enter the indifferent couple with four small children! The parents sat in catatonic states while the children ran while. It was odd, very odd, to see them playing “Ring Around the Roses” because we played that as children when I was a child. I had no idea it was still around. But where kids will play kids will fight and it was not long before a fight broke out and one of the kids began to wail. Wail? Shriek? What do you call that noise a kid makes that seems to reach into the blackboard of your soul and run the fingernails of hell down a fifty mile stretch of it in the space of time that turns endless for the duration of the Shriek/Wail? I gave the carved in stone parents my best significant look and it lay down in front of them and died of indifference. There is only X amount of space past the security and the Shrail can travel X + Y X 10000. The Universe was not allowing me to escape without a fight. Enter the tall blonde woman traveling with the kid who had great lungs.
Children can see children and immediately think a good time will be had by all. I miss that. I miss the idea that other people, strangers, might be fun simply because they are there. The tall blonde woman released her vocalist amongst the other children and where children meet children will play and where children will play they will eventually fight.
Bert and Sam used to chase each other around the wood pile, and even they never got tired of it. These kids were chasing each other around a metal air port sign that read “Do not run around this sign or one of you will clip the edge of it and Shrail until the plane lands in Charlotte” and as you might have guessed by this point, that is exactly what happened to the tall blonde woman's child of great vocal endurance. She held the child down and she Shrailed and yelled, “NO! NO! NO! NO!” and it was as if the Universe was telling me I could not leave, and would not go.
There was some doubt. Something would happen. The plane would have problems but I go onto it, strapped myself in, listened to the Shrail and slowly the plane moved. It moved down the tarmac and into position on the runway and then the plane ran down the runway and suddenly I felt the feeling like no other on earth. I was airborne. I was flying. I was on my way to leaving The South. Up and Up the plane lifted, and even the Shrial seemed slightly muted. I looked out of the window and the ground pulled away. Cars, trucks and houses receded and suddenly there were clouds beside me, and then they slipped underneath.
The clouds were no longer object far above all two dimensional and flat but living breathing three D creatures who seemed to have valleys and well as mountains and they had towering chimneys of air and water and mist. There were small clouds and enormous foundations and formations of whiteness and darkness. There were billowing islands in the sky and it seemed we could have parked on one of them, stepped out, and tossed the Shrailer off the edge. But even that seemed insignificant. I was flying. I was on my way to see Michelle. I was going into the great unknown, and had no idea how to get there at all. But suddenly I understood the very essence of adventure and knew that the unknown was the only place adventure was ever found by anyone. Here, in this medium, men and women had died, disappeared without a trace, and never returned again. But I now understood that to come here at all was to change, and no matter what else happened, just to fly away from home was more than enough to chance my life forever.
End of part one.