Coming Back

The first thing is the light, opaque like glacial runoff. At first, I don’t even recognize this murky peculiarity as light, but I can see that it is somehow framed, organized.   

After some time, it occurs to me: it’s a window. The thing hovers, open to the stars of a moonless night, or maybe the faintest infusion of pre-dawn.

Where am I? I don’t know. I don’t know, but it doesn’t really matter. I know I am lying in unfamiliar air with a big, open window.

Night noise floods in, louder than the underneath hum of crickets. Not man-made, although there is also the lonely sound of tires passing fast on a distant roadway. It is a whine more urgent than crickets. Cicadas maybe.


I am floating up from a deep place, an indolent, looping spiral. I am on my back. I am on smooth cotton sheets. I stretch myself into a five-point star, and barely reach the edges of this bed. I am in a certain season, maybe summer, but late summer because of the cool air, the cicadas.

Lazy, a mud bubble, the thought rises again: Where am I?

Wherever I am, I am not where I have been lately. A whisper of exotic memory echoes bottomless, relentless: trolleys, horns, bustle. Scratchy sheets. Airless rooms. Beds too small to stretch. This place has none of that. Is this a dream?

The weight of my body returns, leaden. I cannot imagine rising. I detect stiffness, puffiness, a cramped echo of sitting, sitting, sitting for hours.

I am a wave exhaling into sand.

I manage raising my arm. A wristwatch hovers, its glowing dial on two-thirty. My mind still lacks quick measure; I am slow-witted, dull. I am alone with a certain stillness except for a ceiling fan, turning slowly.

Where am I?

I move only my eyes, inventory the room. This bed draws my body to it, flat, heavy. A minute passes. Another. No, this is not a dream. An aftertaste of recollection filters into my waking mind, of aircraft engines throbbing, endless motion. Ah yes: the transoceanic journey ended. I am home.


Kate Dernocoeur, long-afflicted by wanderlust, is a 2010 MFA graduate of the creative nonfiction writing program at Western Michigan University. During her most recent trip over the Pacific, she vowed to find ways to avoid flying steerage on transoceanic flights ever again.

Category: Airplanes

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