“If you look out the window you’ll see that we’re flying over the beautiful city of Boston.”
The lights of the city against the darkness of the night scarred my vision. When I closed my eyes the ghosts of the light floated and faded in and out in shades of blackened gold and burnt orange, moving away when I tried to decipher shape and meaning in them. They soon dissolved back into the dark. I opened my eyes and looked out to Boston again, watching the headlights of scurrying cars as they streaked paths of light along the Interstate. The streaks were quickly replaced by the next car’s lights. If I squinted, though, the smears of light seemed to wait for a moment, and just be there. But the squinting gave me a headache.
That morning I’d had to wake before sunrise to get my work done in time to then fly off to London that evening. I hadn’t bothered to open the curtains; it’d be dark when I came home, anyway. The sun barely came out in these darker months. My desk light glared all day and night; my workload had doubled. I couldn’t even go to the funeral; I was working so hard. But Gabe wouldn’t mind, he understood me. He admired my work ethic. We were colleagues – friends. Gabe wouldn’t mind. Gabe couldn’t mind.
The cabin melted away like the snow outside my apartment that stained my polished black Italian leather brogues. I was in an office – Gabe’s and mine. A fog hung thick in the air, like cobwebs collected in an abandoned shed. The air was hard to breathe. The mist condensed on my skin. I shivered. There was a strange echo that my shoes made on the floor, like it was cut short – an unfinished note. Stepping back, I bumped into my desk, its gleaming surface hurting my eyes. Across the room Gabe’s desk loomed, dust and grime gathered on it. A man sat behind it. Him. Gabe smiled at me, memories of 20 years of friendship permeated the room then disintegrated around us, giving the room a pulsing nostalgia. I saw our first day at the bank, both nervous but excited. The day Gabe’s wife left him. The first day we skipped church to work on our records. Our apartment block where we didn’t know our neighbours’ names. Gabe was the moon shining in the winter months; he was ink stains and cigarette ash. His hands were pale and smeared with the morning’s work. They were shaking. The shine left his eyes and his smile distorted into a grimace. His alarm clock let out a discordant beep and crumbled into ash. Gabe let out a rattling cough, trembling and spluttering. He contorted over the desk, gripped the sides and writhed, the veins in his arms showing a green tinge. The colour left his face. I shoved my hands into my pockets feeling for my wallet, my keys, as money spewed out of Gabe’s mouth, the coins falling with a dull clink, the notes floating silently to the floor. His eyes rolled to the back of his head as he decayed in his seat.
I jolt in my seat, hitting my head against the window. Rubbing my hand on my head, I feel the sweat that must have collected from that nightmare. What an idiot. It wasn’t a nightmare, just a strange dream caused by that half eaten bit of cheese sitting on my tray table – I should never trust cheese from an airplane, even if I am in first class. Gabe’s dead and there’s nothing else to it. He was a year younger than me and worked just as hard. That heart attack could’ve happened for any number of reasons. It could’ve happened to anyone.
It could ‘ve happened to
I close my eyes and see clouds; my bare feet standing, pale and veiny. God walks up to me, He steps silently like a cat. He stretches out his hand, palm upturned. Frantically, I pat my pockets, searching for something to give Him. My diploma; my car keys; my company overview. In my right pocket I find my leather wallet, worn and scuffed. Looking inside, the money is new. I take all of my money and offer it to Him. He refuses. A hot wind blows in my face, making me close my eyes. When I open them, He is gone. The clouds beneath me fade away and I fall. I try to stretch my money over me like a parachute but a hole burns in the middle, In God we trust disintegrating into the air. With a loud clang I land in the pan of golden balance scales, across from me my life savings and paychecks weigh against me. The gold melts away and I find myself in a watchmaker’s shop, my money sewn together as my only clothes – my Armani suit gone. The watchmaker looks at me expectantly. I rip the money off my back and pile the scraps on his desk. He shakes his head. Every clock stops and chimes, building together to make a ringing shriek as the floor caves in, revealing darkness.
The plane drops suddenly then jerks from side to side, the seatbelt sign turns on. I tighten my seatbelt and look around for a distraction from the swaying plane and my swirling stomach.
“I’m sorry, but we are experiencing some unexpected turbulence. Please return to your seats and fasten your seatbelts.” The plane takes another drunken dive. Turning around I can see through a gap in the navy pleated curtains people in Economy starting to gravitate towards each other. A frightened woman clinging onto her armrests softens when her husband puts his hand over hers; a crying child is hushed by his mother cradling him softly; a stranger helps another stranger after they tripped on their way back to their seat. Turning back around, I suddenly notice the grey cubicles and the harsh blue light reflecting off the vases. Everyone is in their own little cubicle, unperturbed. One man tightens his seatbelt, another closes his laptop and puts it safely in his briefcase. My hand hovers over my pocket, checking by habit – I stop myself.
The turbulence stops and I rest my head on the window but I don’t close my eyes. The clouds are trimmed with golden thread and the sky is an old friend who welcomes the sun with a pale blue smile, echoing mine as I see the light peer from behind the clouds, staining my vision but I don’t mind.