chasing the sunset

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I don’t know if it’s always like this when you fly west in the evening, but from my usual window seat I witnessed a two-hour sunset. How I wanted the plane to catch up to these brilliant shades of orange, blue, purple, moss and brown, all fading into the blackness of night. My mental race toward this sunset became my survival tool for the first few hours the flight, which my travel companion jinxed at take-off.

See, there’s this little known fact about me is that I have a totally irrational fear of flying. Irrational, that is, for someone who flies as frequently as I do. Take-offs are rough and I usually cry. Mid-flight turbulence sends me into fits of anxiety. Every single time I fly, I’m convinced my plane is going to make the evening news. Since I have no control over what happens on these flights, I instead have rituals. I must buy a magazine. I must drink a tomato juice. I try my hardest to not sit in a row that has the number 4 in it. (I usually book a seat in a row number that corresponds to a special day or month in my life.) These rituals make flying moderately bearable. One of my best defense mechanisms is to fall asleep before the flight even takes off. But rarely do I sleep the entire flight, and most often, I’m jolted awake from my safety net somewhere over Oklahoma.

Until last night, there was really only one person in my life who knows the true extent of my flying neuroses and it wasn’t Amy, as evidenced by this conversation:

Me (getting teary): I hate take-offs.

Amy (scowling): Why?

Me: I’m scared to fly.

Amy: Oh, come on! God won’t let this plane crash with you on it.

We were doomed for sure. I had no wood to knock on, no available course of action but to squeeze my fists tight, close my eyes and hope for the best.

Once I dared open my eyes, the sunset served as a distraction for me. I made outfits out of the color combinations. I pictured prints infused with these hues. I imagined what it would be like to see this sunset with feet actually touching soil. I wondered how long it would last. Eventually, it lulled me to sleep until the plane started to make its initial descent.

A very turbulent landing left even the cavalier Amy a little white-knuckled.

Once safely on the runway, I realized I never drank my tomato juice. I never read my magazine. Which means only one thing: I will need two of each on the return flight.

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2 thoughts on “chasing the sunset”

  1. Sorry to hear that Chelsea. I have a rule that I have tried to follow for some time now: “If something is out of my control, there’s no use worrying about it because there’s nothing I can do to change the outcome.” It keeps me pretty even keeled.

  2. I didn’t know you had such a fear. I am usually cavalier about flying, but I often have a moment per flight when I think, “Holy shit, we are way up in the air in a hunk of metal, and if anything goes wrong, gravity will fuck us all up. Where is my safety net? Huh?” But then I recover. Does that help?

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