Monday, March 10, 2008

FFC - Letters & Numbers

The March topic for FFC was letters and/or numbers.

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Flight 1580 (600 words)
By: Kathleen Oxley

"Flight 1580, service to Memphis, now boarding gate B2."

Paul had his arm around my shoulder and he squeezed, letting me know that was us. We stood up and walked toward the gate. I had my ticket in my hand, but nothing else. This trip wasn't exactly planned.

We'd driven home the day before to visit my dad in the hospital, not expecting it to be a lengthy stay. But, it hadn't turned out that way. He died within an hour of our arrival, barely enough time to say good-bye. Now we were headed home to pack a bag for the week and grab clothes suitable for the upcoming 'events'.

Paul and I boarded the plane and found our seats. I sat numbly next to the window, oblivious to everyone talking and moving around us. I stared out the window, stared at the seat in front of me, but didn't see anything. None of it mattered now. It didn't matter where I was going, who I was with, what people were saying.

The plane took off and I watched the world slowly shrink away. The view matched how I felt - detached, removed, no longer grounded on the earth.

Paul grabbed my hand in his, squeezing in reassurance. I looked at him and he smiled at me. I smiled back, but didn't feel it. He could tell, but still we went through the motions. Trying to pretend that our entire lives weren't changed forever. But, they were. Whatever we had been before, it would all be different now. I would be different. I couldn't feel much, but I felt that.

I turned to look back out the window. Blue skies and fluffy clouds filled my vision. I imagined angels in the sky, peeking over the clouds to look down at the earth. I'm not a religious person, but the notion of the ones we love sitting together in the sky looking down on us is one I just can't escape. I guess that's my way of not letting go of the people I've lost.

"Daddy," I whisper, my hand against the glass. I know he's not there, but still I can't release the feeling that if I look hard enough, I'll see him. If I can just find the right cloud, he'll peek out at me, smile at me.

Tears begin rolling down my cheeks as I stare harder, completely intent in my purpose. The rest of the plane totally falls out of my awareness. And, finally, something feels right. This feels right. The solitude, loneliness, hopelessness fits me so comfortably. I wrap it around me. The tears continue to fall and I'm alternately talking to myself and to the angels.

Memories roll through my mind. Our last Christmas together, his last breath, my favorite picture of us where we're smiling twin smiles. I think of things said and unsaid, questions unanswered.

I'm startled as Paul grabs my hand again. I open my eyes to see the airport now outside my window.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to welcome you to Memphis, where the local time is now nine fifty-five a.m."


I sigh and wipe my cheeks. Paul smiles at me again, gives me that 'I don't know what to do' look. I don't know what to do either. Except to get off the plane, go pack my bag, take the next steps one at a time. I know there's a new journey ahead of me, one I can't anticipate and don't know where it will take me. But Paul holds my hand as we take those next steps together.

8 comments:

A. Catherine Noon said...

Wow! This one sure packs a punch. Nice job, Kathleen! I particularly like her ruminating that she's not particularly religious, but imagines angels looking down over the clouds. The word "peeked" is particularly evocative. Great job!

Eaton Bennett said...

That was like reading an excerpt from my life, very poignant and beautiful imagery Kat.

nicola441971 said...

Very sad, and descriptive. I could really visualize the whole scene, and sadly, her pain. :)

Evey said...

Kathleen,
I loved this story. It is so how I felt when I lost a loved one. The sense of hopelessness and the ability to only go on and do the 'chores' that needed doing.
I have to admit I cried. Great job with a difficult emotion.

~Liz~ said...

Beautiful! I love the emotion that this evokes.

orion-mk3 said...

Some potent imagery here, and you've done a fine job getting readers into the protagonist's frame of mind. I especially liked the nonverbal communication between spouses--well done.

If I had to pick a nit, it would be that there's no real catharsis; the story begins and ends in media res. I'm guessing it was intentional--after all, how many of us get a catharsis in real life?--but subconsciously, I felt there should be more.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Very lovely, Kathleen.

Gwen Mitchell said...

OMG, I'm crying! That was captured perfectly. And I think it really fits the theme because of the message that numbers just fall away at a time like that, when you're flooded with such intense feelings. Very well done, and smooth writing. Lovely. Thanks for sharing. *hugs*
~Gwen