By Jeremy Morgan and Michelle Josette
I don’t want to talk about the plane. I want you to tell me what the hell is going on. Where’s Mel? Hey. Where’s Mel? Why won’t you tell me where I am? What kind of facility is this? You’re American, right? Are you not an American? Fine. Fine! I’ll tell you what happened. I’ll tell you what I can remember.
“Next person in line, please.”
We rolled our luggage up to the check-in counter, placed our bags on the scale. Mel was wearing her blue and white dress—the one she tried on for me that morning—and had her maroon suitcase with the flowers. We had just spent a long weekend with her parents. A woman behind the counter smiled and said, “Welcome to Southwest. Do you have your boarding passes?”
I watched as Mel spoke with the woman, then ran her fingers over the kiosk. We waited for our boarding passes to print from an unseen device.
Mel said, “I can’t wait to get home. Remember how cozy our bed is? I want to curl up with you in it.”
The woman behind the counter raised an eyebrow. I suppose I made a good impression on Mel when I met her parents. She seemed to have been tossing me flirtatious stares ever since we left.
“I can’t wait,” I said.
“You two are all set. Have a good flight.”
The airport was crowded for the holidays. The Hudson News store had its entrance decorated with silver and red Christmas bulbs and at one restaurant waitresses were wearing reindeer antlers and white, fluffy tails on their rears.
“Those outfits are so cute. Don’t you love the holidays?”
“Of course. Everyone enjoys that festive spirit, you can see it on their faces. I want to spend many Christmases with my growing family.”
Mel grinned, her eyes moving to an elderly couple. “Like them?”
“Yes.” I paused, thinking. “I wonder how many holidays they have left to spend together.”
“Don’t be morbid,” Mel nudged.
“Well, I hope I go first so I never have to spend Christmas without you.”
“You know I feel the same.”
“OK, let’s make a deal right now. We’ll go together. So no one ever has to be alone.”
“OK,” I said. “It’s a deal.”
You really don’t say much do you? Do you know who I’m talking about? My wife. Do you know where she is? Well anyway, I guess I’ll finish the story if that’s what you want. Maybe then you can help me find her.
Where was I? Right.
So we were sitting on the plane and she was saying something to me about a baby. She wanted a girl. I think she said something like, “I like James for a boy. Melissa if it’s a girl.”
“Okay. Those are nice.” I always felt good talking about a future with her.
“But maybe we should have a few options for each, and decide for sure once we actually have the baby.”
I hadn’t thought of it that way. It made sense. “Okay.”
“You’ll let me have full creative control over the baby room?” A hopeful look brightened her face.
“Yes,” I said. She must have asked the question a million times. It was something she expressed a passion for so I wanted her to be happy with the room.
“Not pink or blue. I want bright colors. I know they can look kind of obnoxious but I hear it’s great for the baby’s cerebral development—her wellbeing and creativity. What? I really don’t know what you’re thinking when you look at me like that.”
I would look into her eyes. I would think about what color they were. They weren’t the kind of eyes I could say were green or blue. And the closer I’d look the more I’d see. How can I explain it to you? You see, she had yellow in her eyes. I know yellow is a strange color to see in a person’s eyes but there it was— the color of energy. And she had more yellow than anyone. It was like someone had dropped a splash right in the center. Then I saw the finer lines, they were electric, the tiny gaps of black. A nebula. They were galaxies. They sucked me in, made me feel weightless. I tried to see her thoughts forming images from the infinite blackness at the center.
“I like those colors,” I said.
The plane was being taxied through the runway. Looking out the window, I saw a great metallic wing with several aerodynamic spoilers attached to it. One of them was shaking a bit.
“Is it supposed to shake like that?” Mel asked.
“They must have a dozen mechanics look at these things before they take off, Mel. I’m sure it’s nothing. Can I get an orange juice, please?” I said to the flight attendant that appeared in the aisle.
“And for you, ma’am?”
“Oh, umm…” Mel’s hand dropped to her belly. “I’ll just have water. Thank you.”
Do I really have to go on? Reliving this is torture. Are you trying to torture me? Is that what this is? Why won’t you tell me where she is? Look, I’m just going to have to trust you, OK. I’m going to tell you what you want, and then I need some answers. Are you even listening to me?
We must have been in flight only an hour when it started. It was obvious something was wrong. Everyone onboard knew it.
“I don’t like this turbulence,” Mel said, gripping my wrist as the plane was shaking far more than it should have been.
“Just sit tight. It’ll be over soon.” I looked out the window to see the entire span of the wing shudder. I had never experienced turbulence this bad.
“But why is it making that sound? The plane shouldn’t rattle this way.”
“Baby, get your mind off that. We’re fine.”
“No, I don’t think we are.”
“Let’s get back to what you were saying. Where should we take our next vacation?”
“I don’t know. I can’t think about vacations right now.”
“What, of course you know, where do you want to go?”
“Jay, I’m scared.”
“Mel, look at me. I’m going to take you some place beautiful next. I promised you. Where do you want to go?”
“Disney World. Very appropriate, right?”
“Yeah, maybe after— ” Mel was cut off when the oxygen masks nearly slapped us in the face. “Oh my God. No, we are not fine.”
I was speechless. I looked around, trying to decipher what strange thing had initiated the yellow masks to fall. Surely we were not in any credible danger.
I unbuckled my belt.
“Jay, what are you doing? Please sit down and put your seat belt back on.”
“Wait, I have to know what’s going on.” There was a boom. The plane shook. “Whoa.”
“Jay, you sit down and put your seat belt on right now!” Mel had one hand around her belly, the other was jerking me down into my seat. I didn’t want to upset her any more than I had. I sat down.
A fuzzy Intercom crackled in but either something was wrong with the equipment or what was being said couldn’t be heard over the shouting. Someone yelled for people to be quiet.
“This is…aptain…ing…all flight attend…in…ar…before…ight…pre…now—”
“What’s he saying? We can’t hear!” Mel said, then shouted at one of the flight attendants, “Excuse me, ma’am?” But instead of answering, both airline women rushed to opposite ends of the plane without saying a word.
I asked, “Where are they going?”
Mel tilted her head into the aisle, watching one of the women, then abruptly turned back to me. “They just strapped into their seats.”
“Mel, put your mask on.” I made sure it was secured around her mouth. I could hear her breathing through the mask. Heavy, desperate breathing.
“Jay, the baby.” Her voice sounded muffled and afraid.
“The baby’s going to be fine. Everything’ll be fine,” I said, readjusting the safety belt around our unborn child.
Why do you want to hear this? What’s the point, why are you doing this? Who’s in charge here? Are you in charge? Answer me! Dammit. You’ll lead me to her, right? When I’m done here, you’ll tell me where my wife is? She’s pregnant. Do you understand? OK. Alright. You asked for it. This was right before it happened. This was the end.
Everywhere was trembling and banging. The plane was going down.
I told her I loved her. I had to say it loud, over all the noise.
I said, “Baby, it’s OK. Don’t you see, this is what we wanted. Now we’ll never be alone. We’re together, Mel. We’re all together.” I wrapped my arm around our baby.
I remember seeing Mel’s face. The pull of gravity left us. She looked afraid but there was this clearness. Like everything would be okay. She moved to touch my hand. She said, “I love y—”