We don’t get a lot of stars here, so you learn to appreciate things that are in the sky. Like airplanes, mostly. I was at my terrace when I first noticed them, or one in particular. I’d seen planes before, obviously, but I’d never really noticed them.
Anyway, there was this one plane that caught my eye. The skyline was to my right and this airplane was to my left, miles high and away. So small I could’ve pinched it between my fingers, if it hadn’t kept moving. It was a tiny little thing; imagining hundreds of passengers tucked inside of it felt impossible. Imagining their motives and thoughts and destinations, even more so. That’s what makes planes so pretty.
Just one passenger’s story is possibly enough to fill that entire plane with words. That night, I imagined a person who was starting over, who had no idea what her life would become once she touched down, who was beginning to regret a couple things—like arguing with her roommate over leaving her life and friends behind for a guy. Thinking, is he worth it? Maybe she’s worrying about whether her luggage will get lost again as she’s soaring overhead; maybe she’s wondering why that one friend didn’t show up to her going-away party. I would wonder something like that, maybe, if I were trying to think about anything except what the rest of my life would look like when I landed.
Think that, times 250. Two hundred and fifty stories tucked into a metal tube, sailing through the sky. You can look up from wherever you’re standing at any given moment and there it is: the weight of 250 lives floating effortlessly through the night. Going home. Leaving it. Not really knowing one way or another, which way is which.
Of course, flying isn’t all that romantic. Up in the air, there are crying babies, and shitty meals, and popping ears. There is fear surging through the cabin with every patch of rough air, and rules about what you can and can’t do, and little room to stretch your legs.
But down here on Earth, a plane is a messenger of lives, a loaded bullet shooting across a sea of blue. People are escaping, or returning—even if they’re sound asleep, they’re still in transition. Two hundred and fifty lives shifting in tandem, all traveling in a neat little package. And every time one rushes by, we get to stand down here and crane our necks upward, coloring inside the lines of this heavy plane and hoping for the best.