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On the flight to Vancouver: a very short story



A flat, black, and grey shapelessness: it shifts, and Paul is awake.

I must have been sleeping. I was dreaming. Can’t remember. And singing. Like a bird on a wire. Like a drunk in a midnight choir. I have tried in my way. Over and over again. How did that get into my head? Didn’t feel asleep, but must have been. Off and on.

The engines of the plane droned. Cool air blew down on his face from above. He stretched in the cramped space between the window and the stranger next to him, pushing and pulling his shoulders and spine and hips and legs in opposite directions. His body responded with a sharp return of alertness. He blinked at the dryness in his eyes. He shook his head: almost a performance.

I must have slept for a couple of hours. I never do that. I don’t nap. Wow. I feel great. I wonder how long I slept? I feel so awake. More awake than I have felt in ages. Have I not been sleeping well? Maybe. To feel so awake? Maybe I haven’t been sleeping well and didn’t notice. Man, I don’t nap like that.

He pushed his shoulders back into the seat and stretched his legs and toes as far as he could into the space under the seat in front of him, avoiding his laptop bag and jacket. He rolled and twisted his neck, enjoying the tight and hard pulling and twisting. On the little video display in the back of the seat in front of him, the map showed the white plane over the Rockies and the long line of travel across the prairies.

I’ve been asleep for a while. A couple hours? Three? Thunder Bay. That’s the last time I looked. I think? I wonder how long it’s been?

He waited for the map on the screen to switch to the time. He waited.

Why is this taking? For god’s. Why wait? I have it.

He pulled his mobile phone from his pocket. He pushed a button and saw the clock’s numbers.

Wow. I’ve been sleeping for three hours. Maybe less? I read after I ate. I ate! How long did I read after I ate? Saw Thunder Bay before eating. Or was it after? Maybe it was only a couple of hours. At least two. That’s still a lot. For me. I never nap. Once I’m up, I’m up. Never nap. Wasn’t straight through. Was waking up off and on. But must have been sleeping for most of it.

He remembered the bright sunlight pouring in through the window from behind, the awkwardness of sleeping upright, the abrupt twitch when he felt that he might have been snoring, pushing his head into the hardness of the plane, the awkwardness of sleeping upright again, back to the hardness and back and forth, twisting and pushing his face into the space between the edge of the back of the seat and the window, the sounds of the stewardesses in the aisle, his voice speaking and speaking, but sometimes dreams, but none he remembered now, and feeling not asleep because of his voice and the singing and the aches from the awkward sleeping.

I feel great. Fully awake. Fully! I didn’t realize I didn’t feel awake. Only now that I feel so awake. Does altitude make a difference? Like alcohol. Like a new man!

Through the clouds, in breaks and spaces, the Rockies peaked white and inky and luminescent, in perfect focus: vast and unknowable, even from this height.

Wow. Beautiful. Bright, clear, sharply defined. So much snow. Even now. They must be gigantic. The divide. Between here and there. A transition. A change. Who I was and who I will be.

He felt the shape of her smile, the hue of her eyes, and the outline of her hair.

Yes! I will make it up to her. First thing, as soon as I get back. Everything will be different.

He felt her hesitancy, her apprehensive incredulity.

But I will. Make it up to her. Marriage. Family. Everything. Kids. Why not? For her, anything. I’ve always wanted it. Why not do it? Why wait? Why haven’t I? It was always the right thing to do. What I wanted. I’m ready now.

He felt her hesitancy again.

I know. It will take some work. Time. Time served. To earn the trust. But I want to do it. I will do it. I mean it. I’m ready now.

Her smile was warm, like their embrace, and he felt both of them.

The happiness of possibility flowed through Paul. He felt the shadows of the cubicles and his colleagues.

Work too. New leaf there too. Time to commit. Fully commit. No half efforts. Make it work. Go for it. Say what I want. Be honest. Commit. Fully. Get in there. Be a part of it. No sidelines. Ready to work. In the game. One hundred per cent.

His colleagues smiled: an amiable crowd, comforting and encouraging.

I should see Mom too. First thing. Make it a regular thing too. Be there for her. Really there. She really hasn’t been herself lately. Since Dad. Me too, I guess. A year now. Over? At least. Seems so long ago. Just like yesterday too. Distant and near. Weird. Middle age, I guess. Lots of time. Only so much time, but I’ve got lots too. To change. No. To do. The change has already happened. I can feel it! After one sleep. One great sleep. I feel so awake. I’m ready.

But, first, Vancouver.

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