At the airport a pregnant mother tries to pick her toddler up by the hair on his head. I wish it were me glaring up at his pissed-off mother’s shiny thighs, like two orphaned moonbeams shot from her cutoffs, because I am somewhere under the sea of people passing by. I am still learning how to breathe. Love and fear, in and out. I wish I were her little angry fish flopping on the floor for everyone to see. But I’m not, so I just keep reading. And I don’t look up the word eschatology because my phone is almost dead. Where is a dictionary? And I don’t fart in the seat where I wait for my plane to New Orleans. I’ve been taught not to be too animal. Or is it too human?
My fear of flying is always alarming to me, and the smaller the plane the larger the fear. When I board the smallest plane I have ever boarded I am sitting next to a fat woman from some small town in Arkansas near where I grew up. But I can’t talk to her or anyone about anything. Where I grew up is somewhere outside this window, past the propeller blade, past the center of its black mechanism, its perpetual birth of black circles. In my head the propeller becomes both bullet and nipple. My mind wanders to weird places. Until I realize the man in front of me has been talking to his neighbor about god for an hour. Is this his fear? Is he terrified that there is a god other than him? The flight attendant comes bumping by and I realize that a complimentary cup of coffee can put this all to ease, which is terrifying.
Later, almost home, I think of things to call the clouds, like frozen whitecaps or mountaintops and, I don’t know, a few other shitty images, but it doesn’t matter. I feel really shitty anyway, and “We’ll be on the ground momentarily” crackles through the intercom. I’d rather still be on the soggy ground I’d walked for three days, to escape the question I can’t quit asking myself: How long would I have to fly before dying in this plane? But, before I know it, the plane is landing and the clouds are someone else’s problem.
Christopher Shipman is the author or co-author of five books and three chapbooks. Most recently, Shipman is co-author with Vincent Cellucci of A Ship on the Line (Unlikely Books), co-author with Brett Evans of T. Rex Parade (Lavender Ink), and author of a chapbook of short prose pieces, The Movie My Murderer Makes (The Cupboard). Forthcoming is Cat Poems: Wompus Tales and a Play of Despair (Kattywompus Press). His poems and prose appear in journals such as Cimarron Review, PANK, and Salt Hill, among many others. Shipman lives in New Orleans with his wife and daughter and teaches English literature and creative writing to high school kids at St. Martin’s Episcopal School.