Flying High




I’m flying through the air right now. Seat 29A, 5:55 a.m. I’m contorted like a David Blaine endurance art performance: snagging my laptop with a toe; my head in my neighbor’s lap to hook the strap of my purse with a pinky. I drag the items from the seat under-space to my lap, by doing a sort of forward facing dog pose, my nose smashed against the seat back, legs bent-kneed and akimbo. I do not fit.


29B is asleep, so if I have to go to the bathroom, it’s a problem. Earlier he sat with a blank expression, the two halves of a seatbelt in his hands, staring at two buckles until I said, “One of those is mine. You have two females there.”


His wife in 29C, laughed and said, “Not like that’s a bad thing, these days.”


I said, “Well in the context of a seatbelt it is. You sort of need a male and a female end unless you want to tie it in a knot.” I hope I didn’t sound political…


I am thinking of all the times I used the “fear of flying” as an excuse to get drunk. Now that I’m sober, I’m not afraid to fly. Maybe I never was. I know there was always an urgency to drinking in airports and on planes. I’d start in the Sky Club with a couple of stiff Bloody Marys and a Dixie cup of trail mix. Or I’d sidle up to one of those moving-walkway hugging bars, and order wine, pretending to be from a different time zone where it was noon or 5:00…


In Europe everyone drinks in the early hours in airports. A jaunty écharpe, a cocktail with an espresso chaser, drunk and wide awake, just like those recalled Four Loko coolers made you feel…


On the plane, I’d order three at a time: wine shooters in plastic water glasses, in first class you’d get a stem. One time, Dee and I arrived at the Sheraton Belgravia at 8 in the morning drunk. Our husbands were in a lobby banquette whispering over toast and milky tea. We burst in, ugly Americans reeking of stale Chardonnay, hoarse and coarse after eight, straight hours of talking and no sleep… I will admit to being a bad influence.


And the private planes to the Exumas – the cooler filled with bottles of wine and jars of jalapeno stuffed olives.. I’d try to sneak a little liquid courage, directly from the bottle as I sat in the jump seat behind Joel the pilot. The recirculating air would disburse the smell of alcohol, and Joel would say over a shoulder, “Are you drinking already Mare-Mare?”


And I’d say, “Yup. Just a little something to help with my fear of flying Joel. Just a little medicine to steady my nerves…”


Today I’m not drinking because I have to fold myself into an economy seat (and I didn’t pay extra to get an ECONOMY PLUS seat so I’m actually in the toilet…)



How come you’re not drinking?