A Trip Above the Clouds


The cabin darkens and artificial dark blue lights come on. It seems pretty, this neat simulation. I am happy. We are in mostly uninhabited space, lonely travelers in the upper atmosphere. Our isolation, it suddenly seems, illuminates the vibrant chatter of earthbound humans below, and a few words from the song in Aladdin, “A Whole New World,” drift into my mind: “A new fantastic point of view…A dazzling place I never knew.” The concept seems fun, but after a while goosebumps settle in and cold creeps over me like an insidious blanket. I clutch my complementary in-flight blanket tighter around my arms, but the staticky material is fleecy and thin, and does not work at combating my discomfort; this coldness comes from within. I zip up my jacket anyway. This world seems desolate and lonely. I close my eyes and flash back to a memory of when I played in the snow as a kid. The soft, slushy, icy snow was fun to mold and fool around in until my playmates went home and suddenly the coolness descended all around me, shutting me in like a terrifying realization that came up to my knees. Another memory: the sea gets colder as evening descends. My playmates and I abandon the water as people leave the beach and we explore the partially damp, only occassionally wave-visited portion of the shore, where the sand turns a dark moon-gray color and looks like it holds silver under the ethereal lighting. How much I depend on these terrestrial memories now that I am so far high up in the air. The ocean stretches below us, vast measurements of scientific distance. My family has fallen silent. I look to my right. My dad is fast asleep, his head slumped on his chest, his body one with his rumpled clothes. My mother is absorbed, watching a movie, the bright screen lights flickering on her face, now green, now red. My sister looks like an infant with her cheek pressed against my mother’s shoulder. Behind me two men are talking, and their fluent, grown-men tone of speech and vague subject suddenly start to make me feel lonely. Growing weary of contemplation I look again to my family members for a pang of assurance but they are broken apart, consumed by their disparate activities in dreamland.

The flight attendant lady smiles and I feel warmed by the human contact in this place so far from home, like hot water gushing onto your hands from the tap after a long day playing out in the snow. The flight attendant hands my mother a tray with airplane food on it, which she passes over to me. on the tray, to my delight, is a package of welsh’s fruit snacks. My eyes register the bright blue packaging and the label: Welsh’s, Family Farmer Owned, all natural and expected to me. I tear open the package and the sweet smell of lab-made acetates and tocopherols rushes to greet my nostrils. Breathing in the volatile gases, I take one in my mouth and chew it. A smile bursts inside me as I remember afternoons spent on the playground in my elementary school back in the town I still consider my own, afternoons complemented by the quintessential treat of american schoolchildren, fruit snacks. I feast my eyes on the colorful shapes, each perfectly formed and a rainbow to the eyes. Soft and coated with a silky, faintly greasy powder, they are enticing; I reach my hand to take one more, and then another, and then another. Then they’re all gone and I sit back in my chair, suddenly filled with remorse.