Flying Toward Mann’s Tadzio at Christmas

When I read that Thomas Mann likely chose the name Tadzio because it held the word Tod, which means death, I felt satisfied, but then I noticed a gauzy cloth had fastened itself over the city below me. Death must be like this winterized city: vertiginous, a static freeze that’s sort of post-apocalyptic and impersonal like a minimum security jail cell or the Ralph Lauren shirt the man across the aisle has plugged with pocket protectors. The point is death isn’t distinctive, but now I’m anxious thinking that God only offers a provisional embrace, like every couple in breezeways, clutching the edges of their TV screen hearts, their glow-in-the-dark ribs showing because they’re too scared to let anything else be seen. It’s easy to imagine God backing away from the planet like an expert airplane lifting from the runway: a little breath of fire and then, release. Maybe God never meant for a land-locked sea to remind us of anything. Still, don’t you think about the plane’s wings knifing the snow? And what about the recurring theme of artist as outsider? From a window seat I watch as my city slips into a hazy sea of past desires, the water, a yellowed green with spent theories of why truth is equivalent to beauty. Maybe philosophy is enough: People get in planes, the planes are all part of an enormous hand wave constantly saying goodbye and the pilot tells me I am half past you.


Tasha Cotter’s work has recently appeared in or is forthcoming in Everyday Genius, The Rumpus, Contrary Magazine, and elsewhere. Her fiction has been nominated for a storySouth Million Writers award, and her poetry was nominated for the Best of the Net Anthology 2011.

Categories: Airplanes, Death

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