20,000 feet over the Gulf of Mexico, 92” Latitude, 26” Longitude.
7:49 pm . . .
On this screen up front there’s a map that shows our plane somewhere over the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, on our way to our first stop in Cancun. Depending on the weather, we’ll either stay in Cancun for the night, or we’ll fuel-up and hit the skies towards Quito, Ecuador, which is about another 1,500 miles.
Ms. Josephine is thumbing through one of her bags, looking earnestly for something. Ricky is sleeping, his mouth half open. Mr. Green is still entranced with Sodomy Cat. I’ve actually read that it’s an interesting, intellectual book, with a surprise ending. But then, nothing really holds a candle to Todd Steele’s adventures.
Besides, the mind-bending, paradigm-shifting, worldview-altering books like Sodomy Cat, leave me feeling dizzy and unbalanced. And I’m already screwed-up enough with my conflabulations, fugue states, and gross defects, that I don’t need any more nutbag-fuel poured on to my crazy-fire.
I pull out the blue envelope with my name on it. My name is written in black ink, and something about the handwriting is clearly feminine. The letters are rounded and balanced, evenly spaced.
One of the clever things I learned from my visits to the neurology department at the hospital was how indicative your handwriting is of your personality. The subtle ways a person crosses a t, or dots their i’s, means something. And at first glance I can see that even for the four letters of my name, she took her time and her movements were smooth and flowing, like calligraphy. That shows some kind of deep concern.
I slowly open the letter and Mr. Green glances up from his book, “Girlfriend?”
I nod, yes.
“I don’t mean to intrude,” he says almost thoughtfully, his voice low and uncharacteristically soft. “Don’t think you have forever.”
What do you mean?
He lowers his book, considering his words, “If you like her . . . if you really care about this girl, then you tell her every chance you get. You may think you have all the time in the world for each other, but you don’t. Things happen.”
He looks down, probably looking into his past at some place that doesn’t exist but in his memories. If it ever even did.
You have a girl? I ask.
His eyes are still somewhere far off, and he just starts shaking his head minutely, “You wake up one day in the middle of some piss-ant, third-world shithole, with burning metal and smoke so thick it replaces the air, and you realize that you don’t belong to their world. The world that we protect, it isn’t the one that we live in. Truth of it . . . the real stink of it is . . . we don’t really exist to them, at all.
“So, if you do have a piece of their world, hold on to it and cherish every fucking second. Cause one moment everything is beautiful,” he snaps his fingers. “And then, pop . . . it’s all gone. Nobody cares about heroes, anymore. Things happen, Jack. They just do.”
I watch as he lifts his book back up, closing the door on regret and nostalgia.
I carefully slide the letter out of the envelope. It’s ocean blue ink on an off-white, recycled paper. And I read it, devouring each and every curve, slash, squiggle and line. This is her speaking to me through her hands and her heart; through my eyes and my soul.