Posted on: March 22nd, 2009 Prairie Star
By Cat Rambo
“All right. One tube of Airborne. Kleenex. Two fashion magazines and one book of Sudoku puzzles. Advil and Dramamine just in case the flying doesnâ€™t agree with you. Some chocolate truffles,” Jess told me.
“They do still feed us in first class, donâ€™t they? It may have been a few years, but I do remember that.”
“Yes, but I thought you might like to have a snack handy,” she continued, undeterred by the crankiness in my tone. “Here are your plane tickets. Someone will meet you at the Wichita airport, there at the exit to take you to the retreat center. Are you sure you donâ€™t want me to come?”
I packed away the travel supplies Jess had brought. She stood there, fussing over me. I resisted the urge to pat her on the head. She looked like a Scottish terrier we used to have, Rags, whoâ€™d stand there with just that same expectant head tilt, leash in her mouth.
“I donâ€™t want company,” I said.
“You need a driver, you canâ€™t drive yourself.”
“Jess, look, Iâ€™m willing to go to this Prairie Sun Center…”
“Prairie Star. They did amazing things for that French rocker, Etienne – he came out of there and laid down half a dozen tracks that got him a platinum recording.”
“Iâ€™m willing to go to this Prairie Star Retreat Center and try to get my music back, if itâ€™ll shut you up, but I donâ€™t want a nanny going along with me, I donâ€™t want a friend to hold my hand, or a keeper to make sure my eggs are scrambled right, and I particularly…” I broke off there before I said anything that pissed her off. “Look,” I said, “Iâ€™ll be fine. You stay here in NYC and enjoy some quality time with Brian.”
“Itâ€™s Ry-an.Â And we broke up three months ago.”
Itâ€™s always a mistake to pretend youâ€™re interested in other peopleâ€™s lives.
On the plane, no murmurs, let alone shouts. Sometimes thereâ€™s a whisper, an old fan who never fails to ask what Iâ€™m working on. I hide from them. It used to be worse.
At 20,000 feet, the stewardess comes by with another round of drinks. “Maâ€™am?” she says. And again. “Maâ€™am?”
Sheâ€™s not the reason I turn away from the cold, blank window. Rather, itâ€™s the crackle of the Captainâ€™s voice telling us to fasten our seatbelts.
“Shit,” he says to someone before the intercom shuts off.
The turbulence hits hard and fast â€“ the planeâ€™s a rat being worried and shaken, flung up in the air and caught to be shaken again. Thereâ€™s some screaming back in coach and from the sound of things, someone knocked out or threatened with being knocked out, so loud that most people miss the first engineâ€™s failure.
I eat my chocolates one by one, though not too slowly. I return my tray to its upright position and put my half-finished Sudoku puzzle away.
When the second engine goes out, we know for sure weâ€™re falling. And itâ€™s in those moments, those last long and suspended moments for which Jess has packed no anodyne, that what she said would happen, does.
A new song comes to me, quick and splendid as a lightning bolt, and I sing it. Thatâ€™s what I sing, all the way down.