As far as wailing babies go this one was the wailiest --
She screeched across ten states, zero to the thousands,
Made the entire main cabin put on their headphones,
Made her neighbor order three bottles of wine,
Made a girl think how glad she was to be single,
The young guy too, how glad he was to be traveling alone, unrestrained, unbound to earth and man alike, as if his centrifugal wanderings around the planet would be thrown out of orbit with any extra weight or sound – no, they all were displeased at the wailing baby, and pleased it wasn't theirs.
The old man remembered when they came in droves, ingrates, most of them, how many cheeks he had wiped clean only for the cycle to perpetuate, the growth and leaving of one like the falling of small stones to start a landslide upon his heart – his travels all tainted in disquietude.
The woman across the way spent the hours rolling her eyes deep behind her lids, what had happened to parenting, to children – she never raised a wailer, even a wailer-born could have it taken out of them before the midair; no, this was a different breed, if only she could show them how it's done again.
And then there was the girl, with palm cupped above her waistline, getting those pangs again, each cry opening back the well in her stomach, where she thought she had filled in with joy and career and things, no more – peering into her own she unearths that same dry bottom, if only the tears welling up were enough to fill it back.
The plane took a dip then, one that reminds a rider of either the great, odds defying miracle of flight, or the unnatural, all-mocking vulnerability of a ship of steel wailing through the atmosphere.
Another dip, this one hard enough to leave a bruise, and they are reminded, this time, of the mercy of the gods or the distanced indifference of the fates; someone sees their own death, liquefied on solid impact, a rush of hot metal slicing through like a train of starheat, every hard thing now weaponized, every soft thing now exposed.
A loss in altitude, ears pop with enough force to eject earbuds; this man clutches his knees, this one his belongings, another thinks of everything she never got to publish, if there is a ship-in-a-bottle equivalent for being vaporized in midair.
We think of the movies, our only visual reckoning of the forces at work here --
will the plane split in two, will entire bodies be sucked out of windows too small to
fit a puppy, will we go down to sea and navigate the lost world for eternity, or see fit
to repopulate a new island?
We think of home, of couches and pillows, smiles, of too many things unsaid
unseen, too many snooze buttons, too many gaps of beauty left unvaulted, we
think of – we think of the child!
What is this curious thing? It laughs?
She laughs now, of all the time? In the face of fatelessness, of furious scorn, of fucking oblivion, she laughs!
My, you care-full being, you timeless phenomena, you wailing ball of humanness,
how you show us the way.
What Football Taught Us This Week (That Dragons Cannot)