An exploration of fearing flight

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The sun always shines above the clouds

By Maree Cowan

The seatbelt sign is on so I buckle mine up and wonder how a small strap of fabric will save me. A pretty airhostess stands in the aisle and shows us how to put on an oxygen mask, to make me feel appropriately scared. I keep repeating the words in my head “put the mask on yourself before your child,” I think it must be a metaphor for life but it doesn’t seem the natural thing to do.

I notice through the window that this huge vessel is now slowly moving and make the stark realisation that, one or two men are now in control of my fate. The engine is mumuring for a while but then the plane speeds up and the noise becomes deafening and everything shakes. The g-forces push my body into my chair and I feel squashed. I grip my partner’s hand like he can save me and a strong wave of fear rolls into me. At this point he says, “it’s not really fair that if it’s someone’s turn to die today we all have to go.”

The fear now overwhelms me and I have a strong urge to punch him but I can’t as I am now paralysed, I can’t even move my hand. At some point the plane leaves the ground. Everyone looks nonchalant and I wonder is it only me that feels I am facing some sort of outer body experience. Why aren’t they all cheering, “wow! We did it! Up up and away” or something like that.

I can sense we are going upwards at an extremely fast pace but the airhostesses are still sitting in their single seats with a blank expression on their faces. I notice we are above the clouds and the vessel seems more relaxed, it’s gone from a burning sensation to a glide.

My heartbeat starts to slow, I loosen my grip and I feel I’m in tune with the gentle motion of the plane. It’s quite comforting when I compare it to where I have been. The pilot’s voice comes over the speakers telling everyone to enjoy their flight.

I notice the airhostess fussing over a metal cabinet the width of the aisle. When she reaches me, she smiles like I’m the only passenger on the flight and says, “would you care for a drink?” Perfect, and she makes me a little gin and tonic with a straw and a lemon and places it on a coastar with a small packet of peanuts. This is the most decadent time of my life. I forget that I am in a supernatural vessel flying at high-velocity above the clouds and I savour the moment.

After a perfect amount of time has passed, my meal arrives in the form of little parcels and boxes. I am confused as to which to open first, then the airhostess with a pair of small tongs, places a warm roll on top of my contraption, how do they do it?

The airhostess are my heroes, they are nice to everyone and have pleasant smiles even though their legs must be aching and they must be exhausted from little sleep. They keep the ship calm and orderly and when I think its all too scary I look at them and take comfort that they have done is a zillion times and they’re not scared.

Nighttime falls, well it’s not a real night it’s a fake night, where all the blinds are pulled down and the lights are turned off. On cue everyone falls asleep, except for the few diehards still watching movies on their little screens and of course me. I don’t sleep but I do have a lot of fun as I go to the back of the plane and chitchat to the lovely airhostesses. How I adore them, we laugh and carry on. It seems the late hour when everyone is asleep elevates our mood. They give me little drinks and snacks and I reluctantly leave them to do their job and go back to all the sleeping people.

In the morning the blinds are pulled up and breakfast is served in the same manner as dinner. The airhostess look dazzling as they serve us breakfast while the rest of us look sleepy, hung over and rather messy. I know they haven’t slept and must be exhausted and it’s unbelievable that they can perform so well and look beautiful.

After a while of gliding in the plane we are asked to put our seatbelts back on and the pilot tells us from the overhead speakers that we will be landing soon. I think to myself it’s not over yet.

I grip my partner’s hand with the same intensity and as I feel the motors’ vibration change and my ears pop. Eventually I feel the plane jerk and hear the wheels skid on the ground and I am safe again, I loosen my hand and start breathing slowly.

I arrive in my new destination thousands of kilometers from where I live and in another country. I’ve experienced what it is to be in an aeroplane but I will never get my head around how I have been flying above the clouds where the sun always shines.


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