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Before My Eyes

My first story.

My eyelids are sealed shut with a dried mix of sand and saltwater, courtesy of the scalding sun. It’s so quiet, save for the waves surging over the packed sand, and the occasional frenzy of caws and flapping wings as the native birds duel over who consumes the next meal. It’s the strange silence that causes me to finally overcome my exhaustion and attempt to open my eyes-I’m a city girl who finds comfort in the many lives around me; and severe discomfort in the apparent lack there-of. I try to attain a sense of balance before surrendering my eyes to the sunlight. I roll over onto my side and feel thousands of grains of sand irritate my reddened and burned skin. My eyelids win the battle over sand and salt and open. When I can suspend my squinting long enough to see my surroundings –I start to scream.

Sometime earlier…

My mother wanted this vacation for me more than I wanted it for myself. I live a busy life, almost every minute spent towards solving the devious issues of my clients or otherwise enslaving myself to the hope of a promotion. My days are spent interviewing criminals, then convincing a jury of their peers of an innocence they don’t possess. I’m a professional liar. My nights are spent reviewing for upcoming court dates over take-out, and an occasional night at the bar with friends. Those times are now few and far between. My friends have married and moved on with their lives; having children now, their nights are filled with Barney re-runs. While my mother manages to ask me at least once every phone call if I have “found someone” yet, I am content being single. At 33 I value my career and bask in independence that can only be found in being alone. I have many years ahead of me, but now is the time to focus on my clients and their needs as well as bettering myself at work.

While awaiting takeoff I browse through a battered travel magazine that features sunny beaches so similar to whereI am traveling. As I admire luxury hotels and clear-watered beaches, I think and worry less about the workload I left behind, and daydream more of the spa as well as long walks on the beach awaiting me at the end of my flight. I turn the page, and my extended elbow is knocked by a toddler. She continues to walk down the aisle, her blond unruly hair bouncing out of her pigtails, curls everywhere, baby doll dragging along on the floor behind her. While the child was oblivious to this, her mother smiled apologetically; lifting her daughter onto a seat located only two rows behind me, while her husband stowed the carry-on luggage in the overhead compartments. The old couple next to me on my left commented to each other how adorable and lovable the girl was, and I smiled to myself in agreement.

As the last passengers meander to their seats, I take the moment to text my mother an “I love you and goodbye”, before my cell phone is banned. The last passenger boarding is a business man who struts to his seat diagonal to mine, all the while barking at a secretary on the other end of his phone. Despite the noble attempts of the flight attendant, the man holds up an index finger in a shushing gesture and doesn’t end his call until business is completed.

The flight attendant administers a warning before walking off to tend to a nervous flyer, and the business man wiggles up into his seat and slips the phone deep into his grey colored suit pocket. A middle aged man closer to the front of the plane breathes deeply, eyelids fluttering and mouth moving in silent prayer. The reassurances of safety from the flight attendant make no difference and his face reflects sheen of sweat. With every passenger boarded, every carry-on stowed, and every passenger with their belt on, take-off is in sight. Our chipper flight attendant goes on to instruct those on the plane of safety procedures in case of disaster. She smiles and acts out her gestures, explaining how to adjust various clasps and straps. Not that any of us were paying attention, and would even be able to use this knowledge if terrible things happened.

My head jerks back to the headrest, heart beating quicker as the wheels of the plane lift off the ground and the plane starts its flight into the pale white sky, clouds swirling with mist and coming rain. The nervous flyer is now rocking gently in his seat, and the curly haired girl is climbing over her mother to peer out the window at the “tiny people”. In her excitement, her nose makes prints all over the window as she attempts to see the all angles of the world below; only calming down when the plane is consumed by the sky. The flight attendant leaves from the sight of the cabin, and from the rattle of a cart, I know that she is gathering refreshments. While I wait for my water with lemons, I close my eyes, allowing myself to rest. To breathe, to slow down, to not think about working… and I lull off to sleep, the plane rocking me like a cradle.

“This is your captain speaking, we are experiencing some turbulence due to weather, buckle up, and we will be landed safely and in a timely manner. Thank you.”

It’s dark outside now, with an occasional flash of lightning. The wind rattles the structure of the plane, and rain can be seen pelting any windows with the shades left up. The dim lights of the plane give everything a sinister glow. I smooth out my wrinkled clothing and click my belt on, still trying to fully wake up. The elderly couple next to me is quietly talking about their plans with their grandchildren when landing, and the business man is furiously typing away on his sleek laptop. I hear the parents behind me waking their beautiful girl to buckle her into the seat and keep her safe.

The nervous flyer is barely sober enough, but he manages to buckle in before falling into another alcohol induced sleep to escape his fears. I know the statistics, I know that there is nothing to fear, I know that air travel is safe-yet I can’t shake the nerves brought on by this storm. To fight off restlessness I rifle through my purse for my phone, hoping to find a game to keep me occupied. I slide the screen up to discover a text from my mother, which must have been sent before take-off. There was just enough time for me to read “love you too" before the plane takes a dive and my phone drops from my hand, sliding down the aisle towards the flight attendant.She smiles and bends down to return it to me, but the plane shudders and makes a terrifying crunching noise before taking another dive. She falls with the tilt, hitting her head on the armrest.

When she looks up, I see fear in her eyes when they meet my own, and I know that something is horribly wrong. Everyone on the plane is awake now, seated rigid in their seats. The cabin shudders and groans, in time with the next bolt of lightning. The captain starts speaking on the intercom, “This is Captain Omar speaking. Do not panic, we are doing everything in our power to land this plane safely, we thank you in advance for your cooperation and calm and we – ” all at once hell breaks loose.

The plane bounces and the oxygen masks pop out of the ceiling, the light flickers and goes out with the power as passengers blindly claw at the air for masks. The plane takes its final rise into the air, before descending down at a rapid speed towards whatever lies below the clouds. I feel suffocated by the screams in the air, and I want to get away, I want it to stop, I want to get out of here. A sob rises in my throat when I see the couple next to me; when I realize that I’m going to die alone. He takes her small weathered hand into his own, and looks straight into her eyes, not breaking contact. He mouths the words “I love you”, and she nods smiling through the single tear rolling down her cheek.

Up front, the nervous flyer has his eyes glued shut, fingering a rosary, and praying out loud. The flight attendant never made it from the ground to her seat, she’s sprawled in the aisle, body smashing into seats and crashing into fallen luggage, only anchored to that immediate area by the hand of the business man. She holds onto his extended wrist and arm, knuckles turning white, screaming in a language I don’t understand, voice going raspy. He looks stricken, and keeps repeating, “It’s going to be okay. It’s going to be ok,” a ghost of the emotionless man he was earlier.

A child’s cry causes goose bumps to form down my spine, piercing at a higher pitch above the rest. I turn just in time to see mother and father form a human shield over their angelic daughter. I want my mommy. I am alone, oh God, I am alone. My body is shaking, threatened to be overcome by the sobs wracking my body, but I go through the motions and grab the cushion under my seat slip, my body through the straps, hands shaking. I lower my head into my lap, and wait; wait for the inevitable end.

In the end, you miss what could have been, not what was. Those final moments I would have expected my life to flash before my eyes, and it did, my life that I didn’t chose, the life that I didn’t live. My regret runs through my brain in rapid flashes of what could have been… My daddy walking me down the aisle to my high school sweetheart. A pink plus on a pregnancy test, and a dark haired boy with ringlets running up to me grinning, calling me momma. Momma, I could have been a momma. I see myself buying my son a tie for prom, beaming at his college graduation, crying at his wedding. And later spoiling grandbabies and enjoying time with my husband in my golden years. It didn’t have to end like this…Tears rolling down my face I mourn the life I didn’t choose, the beaming child that could have been mine, until the plane finally crashes into the rolling blue.

I awake to a black nothingness, the sound of ocean waves, and the feeling of being utterly alone.

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