By Isaac Butler
Every time the plane lifts off from MSP, it turns. We're airborne and then the next moment almost sideways. Out of the left windows, we see the sun, out of the right, the squares and rectagles, all the regular shapes that make up the twin cities.
It's a horrible moment, really, that turn, even when you know it's coming. Or at least, it's horrible when you like me are afriad of flying.
Actually, I'm not afraid of flying.
What I am is convinced that I will die in a plane crash.
So the experience of flying itself doesn't terrify me. I don't mind the sudden acceleration on the runway. I don't mind the buildings going all Mr. Rogers Neighborhood on us. I don't mind the hovering in mid-air. What happens instead is we hit a bump or the pressure changes or we turn and I think "well, here it is, my time to die in this here plane crash."
It seems ridiculous.
I know it is ridiculous.
Yet I always keep enough juice on my laptop to fire off a final e-mail saying goodbye, I love you, cremate me, here's who I want to speak at my funeral.
I should probably save a draft of that somewhere because once we start plummeting we'll be under 10K feet faster than you can say I crapped my pants.
I'm in my Jesus year now. I think about death. All the time, really. It's an odd moment, that time when you realize you are going to die some day. And there's little comfort to be had if, like me, you think this is it, all we get and so on.
I find that most of the men I know who are around my age think about the fact of mortality all the time and very few of the women do. I do not know why this is the case.
But yes, death. Yes. I think about it a lot. Cooking dinner or walking the dog or grading essays and then all of a sudden there's a flutter of my heart and a brief shortness of breath and a little moment of time is going by. You are thirty three. Almost thirty four. There is every reason to believe that you will only live another thirty three. Or thirty four. Or far less. And what about that raised mole on your neck with the little corona of brown? Do you believe your doctor when he says it's no big deal?
And I think about those older than me. I have many friends who are in late middle age. There are, of course, my parents.
I'm of the first generation of people trying to sort this out in the presense of the internet. I still get messages from Facebook telling me that I should really reconnect with Patrick Lee-- dear Patrick Lee-- who died in his sleep of a heart attack all of a sudden a few months after I met him face to face for the first time when we were both drunk and giddy off of success. Our entire friendship happened online, including it's end, his death. And yet that relationship continues. Online of course.
I don't believe in an afterlife. But I do believe our relationships with people continue after they die. Even if I understand that it's not real, it is real. Rather like race. I still have conversations in my head with a dead therapist of mine. So Facebook in this instance is playing the role of the inside of our heads. I cannot say to Patrick that I missed him, but I could post on his wall that I did.
Perhaps it's the standing at the precipice that has me thinking about this. My book is almost finished-- or really, I should say "finished," or finishedish-- yet I have neither agent nor publisher, have not tried to secure either yet. I still have a few months left before I am a Master of a fine-ass art. Or really I should say "Master," or masterish. I live in two cities. Soon I'll be living in one.
It's the split life that has me on the planes, the plane on which I am sure that I will come to an ignominius end, almost every week. Brooklyn to Uptown, Uptown to Brooklyn.
When we take off from New York, I touch my palm to the window. Every time.