At thirty-three thousand feet, the cabin had the hum of a busy little bistro after passengers finished their meals. Several people ordered glasses of wine or beer to enjoy during the tail end of a routine flight between Toronto and New York City. In 21 A, a seat on the exit row, tensions from the Toronto Ballet wrapped around Camy’s chest like a rope. The thought of Don Quixote brought cold chills back from her disappointing performance. Stress became a knife buried in her back between her shoulder blades. It zapped her energy so badly, for relief, she reminded herself, to “breathe, just breathe.”
Below, the northeast seaboard stretched out like a shimmering string of jewels, twinkling in the twilight of another beautiful sunset. Camy could barely keep her eyes opened but she would not allow herself to fall asleep either. It helped when she got up and stretched her legs during a slow and deliberate walk to the restroom in the rear of the plane.
“The Captain has turned on the seatbelt sign,” the flight Attendant announced.
Walking a few rows back, Camy observed a woman tell a little girl with red ringlets, who was playing with a doll and either she did not hear or completely ignored the warning to, “Put on your seatbelt, Sarah!”
On the return trip to her seat, grabbing one seatback after another, the athletic ballerina felt the plane tilt sharply to the left then the floor shook violently, sending vibrations up her legs through her arms and into Camy’s chest, before she froze. Every man, woman and child in the cabin had panic etched on their faces.
Intuitively, Camy knew this was a collective expression of primal fear, signalling something very bad was about to happen. What followed was a blur, unfolding very quickly, in no particular order or sequence and in a few moments, the tranquilly of their flight had disintegrated into complete chaos.
“Keep your seats!” the Attendant shouted.
Camy’s feet lost contact with the floor; the plane’s sudden plunge sent all two-hundred and four passengers into a breath-taking vertical drop. The precipitous loss of altitude disoriented her. Clothes, newspapers, food, computers swirled in the air all around her. Amid screams and shouts, the flight Attendant reached out to grab Sarah’s arm and kept her from flying upward.
Everything not bolted down, strapped in or secured hit the ceiling and that included Camy Reynolds, the five foot six-inch caramel skinned brunette ballet dancer; a woman whom many have described as beautiful, but who flew into the top of the plane like a rag doll in the cloud of debris.
“Stay calm!” The Attendant shouted.
Cabin lights flickered a few terrifying seconds. Poised overhead like a light fixture, the ballerina saw Sarah clinging to her doll. “Don’t let go of her,” Camy said, looking down from the ceiling.
The plane’s metal twisted and groaned; its engines whined like feral cats. She felt the aircraft right itself just before she dropped from the ceiling landing on both feet. Wobbling like a baby doe, Camy continued toward her seat but lost balance and she fell sideways into the lap of a twenty-something man with a square jaw, and a face evenly covered by a five o’clock shadow.
Blinking in disbelief, the man said, “This didn’t just happen did it?”
“Oh, yes! It did!” Camy replied, noticing his piercing blue eyes for the first time.
With Camy sitting on his lap and the plane still undulating, Adrian was bolt upright, as rigid as a board. For reasons she will never be able to explain to herself, she wrapped her arms around him. Was this a maternal instinct or a need for protection in the midst of a crisis? After several self-conscious moments in this position, Camy became uncomfortable draping herself over a man she did not know and pulled away.
“Wow! I thought that was...” Adrian blurts out.
“The end, I did too, Wow!” Camy finished.
Awkward and a bit stiff, Camy untangled herself from him slowly and stood in the isle. Passengers came to help her but she waved them off and pointed to her seat a few rows forward as other passengers brushed pass them, severing their tenuous connection. As Camy walked away, her head began to ache. She reached up and felt a walnut sized lump on her scalp under her thick and unruly hair.
“Great like I needed one of these too,” Camy sighed.
“This is the Captain. Our aircraft just hit a down draft, folks. It happens every once and awhile and I apologize for any inconvenience. Everything is all right up here on the flight deck so to be safe stay buckled up. The cabin crew is there to offer any help you might need before we land at JFK.”
Camy’s back ached as though a jack hammer had drilled through her. The cabin was a picture of messy disarray. However, the passengers gradually gathered what belongings they could find and took their seats.
After an uneventful landing at JFK, their plane taxied to the terminal where teams of medical, safety and TSA personnel stood ready for a disaster when the plane’s doors opened. There were a few injuries but none was serious. A woman asked Camy if she needed help as they went straight to the carousel and found it already spinning. Ignoring the pain, she spotted her sticker covered, weather-beaten, travel worn bag and, while excusing herself, poked through the crowd, grabbed it, and headed for the nearest terminal exit.
An exhausted ballerina walked outside as the man hopped into a long black limousine and sped away towards Manhattan. She was crestfallen. She thought they might, at least, shake hands, say goodbye, say thanks or your welcome, or maybe exchange names and numbers.
However, this felt as though nothing ever happened; no evidence, no proof, only memories left behind like fragments of a dream, a dream filled with shiny gossamer objects floating in the air around her, filled with magical twists and turns and the stranger who saved her after a terrifying fall. It was just a memory that felt incomplete so she did what she had to do. She let it go.
Squaring her shoulders, Camy walked to the taxi stand and joined a dozen other passengers waiting for a ride into the City.