When The Air Strikes

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Thank you for flying with us. Hope you enjoy your flight.

I was never the kid who needed bags to vomit in, but today I feel very nauseated. The fact that Luke keeps asking for the window seat every five minutes is not helping either. I ask him to shut up. The window is cool and thick. The clouds hang over the faintness of the city with an eerie heaviness almost as if London is casting a strong repelling force. After a while we’ve rocketed above the clouds too. I let Luke take my seat. He’s talking about movies he’s going to watch next, when I fall asleep. I dream in vintage colours.

“Wake up, wake up, wake-uh, yeah, just a second. Zara, wake up,” Luke is elbowing my gut. “What do you want? You have the window seat,” I hit him with the sky-shop catalogue lying on my lap. “Madam, what would you like? We have grilled cheese sandwich in the vegetarian option and chicken fajita roll for the non vegetarian one,” the stewardess says smiling. She has a very elaborately fake French accent. “I’ll have the fajita roll, I guess,” I answer. I am happy when the food finally arrives, but the man beside me is very loud. He’s gulping his food then chewing on air. It’s annoying. I request Luke to trade places, but he wouldn’t budge. When we’re all cleared up, Luke pulls out the video camera from his bag in the overhead storage area. Every time he talks the half asleep man beside me clicks his tongue in disapproval.

“If we want help, we will have to provide help in return.”

“Yes, Luke. While I form a plan why don’t you get the camera working?”

“No, shut up. When we meet them, you’re the face I’m the camera, alright?”

“And what do we do with the face and camera once the need to find my parents is more urgent than the documentary?”

“If worse comes to worst you’re an ugly face with vocal disabilities and I’m a broken camera.”

“Yeah, but this is so unfair to Ashraf and his people. I mean, they’re putting their lives at risk, reaching out to thousands of people, wanting only to have it all recorded.”

“Everything’s fair in love and war.”

“Just shut up.”

We don’t talk more about it because it’s not safe. I join Luke in watching a movie, when he’s not looking I shut my eyes. My body feels torn trying to contain the loss of love and the acceptance of it. I always imagined my world to be small, secured by the four walls of our apartment. Mum, dad and I. If there was an Earthquake I often imagined all I will have to do is get three people under the huge oak table in the living room and we’ll make through it safe. I was also shocked at how many people had to get under tables before my teacher could put herself to safety. I kind of felt sad for her responsibility towards so many kids. Would she ever get her loved ones to safety? Would anybody come for her? It’s only been a few days since my world has ripped the four walls down. I feel part of a bigger picture but not quite. I am still trying to get the same people under the oak table but I also see more teachers. Ashraf is a teacher. Luke is one.

To be honest, I’ve never sat alone and underestimated myself. I mean, I do go around telling people I’m not good at certain things but when I’m alone in my own bubble , I’m always upping my game. Except today when everything within me is talking about how shallow I am and I think I understand why Luke is here. When the bigger picture shows up and in that picture, where everything makes you realize how small you are, he wants to feel full and complete.

Summer evenings meant
huge open windows meant
trying hard to escape in
drinks of people
drowning in things too shallow.

The plain begins to descend sending tickles in my stomach and a sharp pain in both my ears. I keep taking sips of water. The wheels strike against the ground, slipping uncontrollably and finally coming to a rest. There is another announcement, this time the pilot is speaking, “Welcome to Dubai. The local time is 11:15 PM, the weather is pleasant. Hope you have an amazing stay. We wish to see you back on board.”

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