I was on an airplane filled with strangers. We weren’t up in the air by choice. Someone had put us there against our will. It was dark and cold, but we found blankets and coats and socks to keep us warm. Over the speaker, music played and we were told that we had to keep singing, or else the plane would crash. So, even to the songs we didn’t know, we made up the words and guessed the melody.
On a screen was a graph that measured the strength and accuracy of our voices. As we sang off key or missed a note, the plane dropped lower. An old nun was shivering and about to die, so we covered her with more blankets. An old friend of mine gave up her socks to warm the nun’s blue hands. One by one, passengers stopped singing, and when they did, they would disappear. Their bodies flickered for a moment and then vanished. When there were more empty seats than people, I kept on, making up words to songs, presumably keeping us alive. Then, I realized that the plane would go on as long as someone kept singing, that there was no finish line, no soft landing, and that the real test was to be open to the unknown outcome. I had a page in my hand with typewritten lyrics. I stopped singing, and I wasn’t afraid anymore. The page went blank. It was still cold, but I no longer felt cold. I opened my eyes. I was in my bed, and I felt my lips smiling as I imagined that brown fabric on an airplane chair springing back from the absence of my weight. There was no relief that I had returned to reality from a dream, no rolling over to see the numbers on a clock, no clicking on of the bedside light or reaching for underneath the pillow. Instead, the calm came from the realization that all this singing I do to keep myself above the ground isn’t what keeps me alive. It’s what keeps me afraid.
posted by holly.