My flight left from O'Hare's F terminal, a neglected wing made up of intricately lettered and numbered gates. Outside, it was uniformly grey, from the sky to the tarmac, the jetways to the trucks carrying black suitcases and colorless in-flight meals. Grey, grey, grey. Oprah shouted, muted, on a TV across the way; she has a sister now. Like bingo hosts, gate agents shouted letters and numbers at random: gate changes, flight delays and estimated arrival times.When my flight's number was up, I shuffled to the gate, pinged my ticket and ducked through the entrance to the tiny Embraer puddle jumper, the Barbie fun jet, that would take me to Louisville, where I'll spend the next six days living out of my little blue suitcase. I'm certain I forgot something.
The force of take-off pulled me back against my seat; I closed my eyes to fend off the dizziness and pressure. It didn't occur to me that the sky would look any different as we sailed above the cloud cover; these aren't the sorts of things I think about when I fly. I'm not sure what I think about when I fly. But tonight, when I opened my eyes, my tiny plane had become an ocean liner, sailing a sea of snowy-white winter clouds tinged with dark blue, rippling through the thick, industrial-plastic windows with every move of my head. The horizon was a glowing mimosa, a soft yellow with streaks of brilliant pink and purple, crowned by a searing red orb so bright it hurt to look at. I did it anyway. The setting sun cast a roving glow over the inside of the plane, little boxes of orange light setting passengers' faces on fire against the opposite wall. An older man in the aisle seat next to me had a salt-and-pepper mustache and pockmarked skin; I'd place him in a generation that still fervently believes in getting up every morning and dressing in a blazer and dress pants, putting in a full day's work, finding satisfaction in a job well done. He scrawled boldface comments in neat, straight lines across the back page of a paper about critically ill patients; I wondered what could be so captivating about his article that he didn't even notice that sky was magic. And it never stops. The sky never stops; the magic never stops. We don't live in a snow globe or a terrarium. Infinity is up there. Out there. Pure nothingness. Or everything-ness. Forever and ever, amen. Does the man in the aisle seat ever even consider that? Or did he stop imagining what was beyond him with the startling realization he'd find out for himself, for sure, sooner or later? Back on the ground, the lukewarm orange of fluorescent streetlights snaked out from the center of some nameless Rorschach of a city. They'd had sun today. I wonder how it looked to them as it set, all the way down there.
It's funny to think their horizon was the same as mine.