In the dark, Andrew squeezes my hand. He starts to speak, but I put my fingers against his mouth. He takes my hand and kisses it. His hand is much warmer than mine. I ignore the boom and rattle. My heart?
He leans forward.
In the end is my beginning. Someone said that. T. S. Eliot? Shirley Jackson?
I haven’t known Andrew long, so flying off for the weekend always felt a little foolish. Too fast, but I’ve always been a careful sort of person. Maybe that’s always been my problem. I think too much. Lie awake at night. Thinking.
On average, we spend seven years lying awake at night. I don’t know how the statisticians figured that out.
I feel Andrew’s lips against mine, and I cling to him, memorizing the feel of his mouth, his tongue and letting him cocoon around me until I am bathed in soft shimmering heat.
Why was I so afraid? I waited for too long. Foolish me.
We spend five years waiting in lines. In banks, in supermarkets, in airports, we stand, holding our place, waiting our turn, like eternal sheep. Some people jump the lines, push out of place, but most of us wait. People like me.
Andrew is rocking me against him in a gentle rhythm, and I cry out. I don’t want this to end. Life is swirling about us in an eerie cacophony, and I dig my nails into his shoulder as we slide sideways.
We spend somewhere between forty-five and sixty-two minutes every day waiting. We spend thirty-eight hours a year in traffic jams and another twenty weeks stuck on hold. We wait to hear from loved ones and lost ones, for life to occur, and death to arrive.
Andrew’s cheek is wet against mine when the plane gives a mighty shudder, straightens, and the lights blink on. They sputter a little then blaze bright. We separate as white-faced people pull themselves back into the upright position.
Flight attendants begin checking the passengers to make sure nobody has been injured by flying baggage or worse. People speak in jittery voices, laugh and cry. They want to call family and friends, but there is no cellular service, so they wait.
“Ladies and Gentlemen. We apologize for that turbulence.” The pilot has a slight Southern accent, and his voice is smooth and sweet as apple butter. He has a gift for understatement. “It seems we ran into some vicious weather and were struck by lightening. So we will be touching down in Logan International in ten minutes. Our company representatives will be there to redirect you once you reach the gate. Y’all have a pleasant evening, and thank you for flying Jetway.”
Out of the window the lights of Boston glitter diamond-like in the darkness. Below us, the treacherous Atlantic churns. Rain spatters against the window. The right engine coughs and sputters, shooting out tiny flames.
The runway seems to appear from nowhere, its lights welcoming us to Boston. I reach for Andrew’s hand, but he wraps his arm around my shoulders. With the plane only about ten feet off the ground, no one speaks. We can all see the fire trucks.
The plane swoops down towards the runway and thuds down hard. We skid a little as the pilot applies the breaks, but eventually we slow and begin our taxi to the gate.
Andrew squeezes me. “We could skip the whole waiting for another plane thing and spend the weekend in Boston.”
I look at him. Time is a precious and mutable thing. Three seconds can feel like three hours. Forty years can fly past in what seems like ten minutes.
“I’d love to stay in Boston with you.”
His wide smile crinkles the lines around his dark eyes. “I was hoping you’d say that.”