I looked for the stewardess who had given us the pillows and my only coke. She had vanished for good behind the curtains by the lavatories. Beyond us, deep white cigarette clouds billowed from the mouths of the other passengers unable to sleep, smoke puddled above the empty aisle.
The cabin light made a mirror out of the plane window. I stared back into a face that still looked like some brownie scout, the bobbed and nut-colored haircut, too round eyes. I had left the bulk of my belongings in a bag over our heads on our luggage rack, but I had my small purse, filled with the overwrought make-up designed to put on my face like the evil eye. Rough and powdery brush foundation, mascara, and the eyebrow pencil that cut black lines under my eyelids. I could be off with everything I owned in a matter of minutes if the chance arose. Among my skirts and sneakers were all my folders filled with poems and scraps from books, like the things I imagined the people in my father's books kept, the people who fled to snow-covered mountains in Europe, to recover from tuberculosis and other illness. I can't say I was certain that the best way I would rejoin him would be by taking own my life, but the notion of suicide hooked into my imagination. It seemed like a gracious thing to do, if you didn't lose your nerve. The thought stayed over, and, now and again, came to call.
The idea that there were cathedrals and pleasure
houses in Paris where sitting under pristine stained glass I could touch my father again became very real to me as time went on, or that I could jump back into the undefined dreamy splendor of my father's promised land, back into the way things used to be.
"Are you better now?" my mother asked me.
My mother put her hand over my left fingers on the seat. Then she let go and picked a blanket up off the plane's floor, took it out of its cellophane, and threw it out.
"It's going to be all right, Liana." The blanket went up and spread in the air like a sail, falling and covering us. The silky material of my mother's tent dress flowed out even under the blanket, touching me. And then there was a peace. I felt and everything was soft and dark and tingling.
I looked towards the floor of the airplane, her bare toes looked larger than they really were in the darkness and almost alive, like fleshy, shelled animals or fish. I reached up and turned off the reading light above our heads.
My mother's arms flopped carelessly at the sides of her body. Her head soon came to lie on the edge of my left shoulder. Under me, the plane engine began to sound like it was growling.
I fidgeted with the threads in my bluejean skirt. I jostled my mother's head. My mother sighed and shoved her pillow to the high left corner of her seat. She lay her head there, her back to me.
Out the window, the space under me was turning to charcoal cumuli, dark, fluffy bumps that, in the moonlight, looked like a flock of black sheep. Only a dissemination of things could be found, detected in a vastness. Everything that was once solid form under me had sunk somewhere else.
The whole cabin was floating with the silent heave of my stomach muscles hoping to expunge my mother's closeness. I sat up as erect as I could on the plastic plane seat. Even that move jammed my thoughts together, shook up all the information I constantly arranged in my head. If I drifted off my mother would get through my skin and plant her alternate world of chaos and abandon inside methe sudden warmth of her that smelled like salts, and a rich and almond oil. I would not be able to help myself.
From Edges by Leora Skolkin-Smith. Copyright Leora Skolkin-Smith 2005. All rights reserved. Reproduced by permission of the author.
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