Coming. It starts with a grumble, which is quiet at first but gets louder and louder. Well, no, it starts with a silence, but that silence is long, really long, and everyone is just sitting there waiting the whole time, waiting for the host to sit down and the lights to go on and the captain to say, "welcome aboard, ladies and gentlemen, your flight will be arriving in beautiful Sydney in 14 short hours," or whatever, and we hardly even notice because we’re all holding our breath, dreaming about the adventures we’re about to live out. And so the silencetime shortens, and the grumbletime spills back into it, if only because we’ve all spent the whole silencetime thinking something along the lines of: vrrrrmmmmmmm.
Silence it is, and then grumble, then up. We kick off our shoes and we lean back on each other’s tight-tucked-in knees. In the still, stinky air of the passengers’ cabin, we steel ourselves for the unbearable mundane stillness that comes with zooming through the clouds at 500 m.p.h.
Vrrrrmmmmmmm. I am dreaming of home, which somehow feels like an adventure, even though it’s really just home and I was there six short months ago. I wonder if there will be a balloon at the airport again, a balloon I can roll my eyes at and then secretly treasure. Last time it was pink and deflated the day before I left.
I glance around the cabin and it looks like any other. The girl sitting next to me is watching Tom Hanks Finds Himself and Also Love on the big screen without having bothered buying headphones. I watch along, mute, until she falls asleep with her knee on my knee because there really is no space...and I keep right on smiling at the thought that, five years ago, this would have passed as a successful date.
I offer her gum just before we descend. She tells me that she’s traveling. "Cool," I say.
We blink and we stare. The clouds rush on by and everybody looks out, but they all look the same, suddenly boring like the land, so we close the little flaps and we doze against the window frames that rattle in our faces.
Arriving. When the people you’ve kept locked away in your mind are suddenly there, alive and in the flesh—but not all too much in the flesh, not real-life people who have elbows and who snore and who have different opinions from you about things you always thought were completely straightforward.
When your love and its recipients are one and the same. I really do love that moment.
Going. Silence, then grumble, then up. I try to see the city and bang my nose on the window; the plane picks up speed and ascends. The thrill of recognition leaves me pointing like a child: there’s Little Bay!, there’s Mahoney Park!, now there’s the Bridge!, and it’s still a vague rush as my hometown shrinks and flattens into a map, and then a sketch, then the faintest impression.
And there’s nothing, absolutely nothing, that screams adventure like the moment when it all collapses onto a point, when I shut the window with my little white blind that will keep in my memories and keep out the clouds.
The same clouds that kids down below us now point at, their eyes squinting sore and their backs on the grass, braving the light of the sun just to say, this one’s a dog no a bird, look, a dragon.