Journey Home — Part One
He had a strong desire, as they were moving at nine hundred kilometers per hour and eleven kilometers altitude, to fly in a plane with a transparent body. It was minus fifty degrees outside. What a thrill would that be, he thought. This yearning was immediately followed by disappointment. Why had they not designed it yet? Surely they have the technology to do that. The airplane windows are strong enough, even fighter planes have the upper body made of glass. Is there no market for it? He failed to understand why it wasn’t a thing yet. So he just sat, imagining, sitting on a glass seat, on a glass floor with glass walls, exhilarated and petrified at the same time. But he could only imagine so much. He ended the thought with a hope that it would be a thing in his lifetime and he would experience it in real.
He was irritated by interruptions in his sleep. Every time he managed to sleep he woke up with pain once in his neck, then in his back, then in his foot and once in his buttocks. Mumbai was one hour away. He had exhausted all his downloaded playlists. He lost interest in the book he was reading. The only thing he could do was to stare at the screen showing estimated landing time every two minutes. He thought it was the dullest moment in his life. He was going back to his hometown for a vacation. He couldn’t wait to get home. He had gone through a frenzy of overwork and sleeplessness as though to gather enough escape velocity to propel himself out of the life he had lived for one year at stretch. Now it was time to go home and meet his family. If only he could survive the boredom for one more hour.
He stood up and stretched, and got out to go to the washroom. He walked passed an air hostess. For some reason, he thought that air hostess was not friendly only to him on the plane so he didn’t bother to smile as he passed her. The washroom was occupied. He stood in front of the door. He looked around to find the emergency exit door right next to him. It had instructions to open printed on it. It looked really scary. He made a mental note to stay clear of it. A minute passed but the washroom door didn’t budge. He put his headphone on and started his playlist “melancholy” from the top. Leonard Cohen started whispering his magical lyric into his ears. He was always moved by the pain in his voice. He caught on with the song in the subsequent verse.
Baby, I’ve been here before
I know this room and I’ve walked this floor
You know, I used to live alone before I knew yaa.
He closed his eyes to let the words sink in. He understood how difficult it would be to explain this to a lover. Yet Cohen had managed to do it with him.
I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch
And Love is not a victory march
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah.
He wondered why love has to be hard. It seems so simple, so elegant, so natural. Yet with each line, the song proved otherwise.
Eyes still closed he waited for the chorus that he loved so much, “Hallelujah… Hallelujah… Hallelujah… Hallelujah…” each chorus singer meaning their own meaning of ‘hallelujah’ among the varied interpretations Cohen had placed before them. After the chorus, the song completely dropped all music to a silence of two seconds to create a chilling effect, kind of like removing life support from a dying man, inducing adrenaline rush. At that moment when the music had stopped, he could hear the plane announcement. It sounded urgent.He removed his headphone from his ears. They had hit turbulence, it said. He saw that the seat-belt sign was on. He moved to get back to his seat. The plane gave a jolt. He lost his balance and fell on the door. Trying to brace the fall he grabbed the door handle and by doing that he accidentally unlocked the door. The plane turned sideways. Three huge trolleys rolled towards him. He dodged them and they banged on the door, pushing it open. The sky sucked him out of the plane. His stomach went empty. A sense of grave dread gripped his entire body. He descended the dark atmosphere, falling into an unknown abyss, towards certain death.