*I wrote this on a plane trip back home a few years ago, three weeks after a plane I could have been on fell out of the sky. In memory of the ones that went away that day, and the ones we lost from Chapecoense... You are not forgotten.*
We sit on chairs in an iron bird and rifle through the sky, two hundred hearts in human cages, pounding at the bars. Even this far up, they pound – maybe more fiercely than before: they do not wish to fall asleep.
We stare the clouds down – eye to eye – through windows in a steel falcon’s side and chase the night before it falls like drops of darkness to the ground. Now the light is fading, but the darkness has no name: this high, this fast, evening becomes morning far too soon – there is no sense in naming shadows. We are the passengers of time, staring on through flickering vision at a flickering sky.
For some of us, the day is dawning – the pounding has not gone on for long. Our ears are filled with the sound of famous footsteps we have never taken on hardwood floors that we have never trod. For us, the clouds are full of shapes and faces and castles made of cotton dreaming. We sit and stare at things that have not been, with eager eyes and molten sight that burns through ancient barricades, forged in the flames of ‘what has been’ and made of things that are; we burn right through the mammoth berg – a mass of cold reality – and see the things we choose.
For others it is nearly noon. The dawning happened while we slept. We woke to find the others gone and running now is futile. And so we turn the race away and walk the walk we must. We will not win this anyway. We leave the berg alone.
For others still, the twilight looms. The sky is many shades of dusk: lilac and pearlescent grey, hints of gold and fading pink. Our words are tinged with subtle resignation. Our foreheads bear the creases of resolve. For us the clouds are full of notes we stuffed in bottles long ago that now return to sender’s sight, released from prisons sealed with cork; they now lay strewn across the sky – styrofoam sculptures made of words. They spell out secrets we have kept, and ones we wish we hadn’t told. Our hearts are worn from love and loss and longing. Our hearts are worn from pounding at the bars.
For some of us, the night is here. The black is thick – there are no clouds. We squint to find a single star and do not flinch when it is found. Our gaze is fixed – one is enough. One hand to hold, one kiss to crave, one thing to prize… one is enough. At dawning we have sought the noon. At mid-day we have begged for night. In darkness we have searched for morning. But now we breathe another way. The world was quick and took large strides. Our memories did not follow suit. What we knew has gone away. Yesterday is barely true. Tomorrow is the stuff of youth: our business is the here and now.
We are the same and we are not, this far above the ground: two hundred paths that met and stopped ten thousand leagues above it. Two hundred lines that met and merged. The point was fixed and then it moved, and we became the same.
Cabin crew please take your seats and prepare for landing.
We sit on chairs in an iron bird and rifle through the sky. Two hundred hearts in human cages pounding at the bars. Three metres from the ground and still they pound. More fiercely than they ever did…
Hearts do not wish to fall asleep.
We went away. Our hearts did not – they did not know what we know now: hearts do not stop. There is no end. They pound away – in those we leave behind.