CHAPTER FOUR: Airport Runway – Somewhere Out West
He boarded the plane on Pacific Time but he would be landing on Eastern. Most of the passengers were already setting their watches accordingly. He didn’t wear a watch anymore.
The overhead compartment was completely full, but he didn’t feel the need to blame others for what was only a minor inconvenience. He asked the large, Southern woman seated behind him if she would mind terribly if his bag was stored with hers. With an abundance of politeness, she told him there was plenty of room, and that she could even just hold onto her purse should he require more space. He said that wouldn’t be necessary, and thanked her for her courtesy.
He thought of his friends. How long had it been since he’d seen them, he wondered? It had to be at least ten years now. Time passes so slowly when you’re not paying careful attention to it, slow enough that you might not notice when something is gone from your life completely. He wondered just how much they must have changed. It’s possible that they may have moved on as well and left the city behind for better opportunities elsewhere. Except for Tommy. There was no way Tommy would ever leave New York, he knew that much at least. But would he be accepted back into their world? It had felt like such a permanent world so long ago, but now it seemed like a world he’d only ever temporarily known.
The lid of his water bottle had been screwed on so tight that his fingers burned trying to open it. He soon realized that he’d already finished the last drop. Rubbing his dry throat with an open hand, he closed his eyes in an effort to settle his nerves. He hated flying. The plane would be taking off shortly, so he secured his seatbelt, and made sure he was sitting in a full, upright position. He made a note of where the emergency exits were situated, just in case the flight attendant forgot to mention it. He caught himself as he checked his wrist for the time and tried to remember when he’d last worn a watch. He couldn’t recall.
It took him a few moments before he realized that the plane was already moving along the tarmac and it was deep into the sky before he knew it.
He was anxious. Nervous. Optimistic. Terrified. Was the plane supposed to be making such noises? At once, it reminded him of the chaotic echo of a New York subway, a zipper being pulled tight, a barking dog behind a fence, and the remote control being dropped on the glass coffee table in middle of a scary movie. His sweaty hands clenched the shared armrest.
The woman behind him placed her perfectly still hand on his shoulder in order to let him know things would be fine. “Let fate do the rest,” were the words he heard in his head. But he was unclear where the words had emanated from. He also realized then that accepting fate was the one thing he’d never really been comfortable with.
He turned in his seat just enough to get a look at the time on the woman’s watch, hoping it might comfort him. But he couldn’t make out the digits due to the shaking airplane.