Mystery of the Airplanes
published Nov. 11, 2018
I am mesmerized by the mystery of the airplanes. The first time I set foot in one I was six; the memories have not yet left me, and perhaps never will. The aisles, the chairs, the stewardesses, the funny feeling when chassis lost touch with the ground below. Following those few hours on a plane to Bulgaria, I always felt at home in airplanes. Invariably similar, if not identical, they brought a sense of freedom and timelessness, as well as a living anticipation of a new place, new experiences, new people. So many years later this comfort grew to be almost a burden to me as I began to analyze how many times I have actually been on a plane: the answer is not that many. Then why such a homely feeling overwhelms me when I first feel the massive metal construction brought to new heights?
There is something special about spending time in different places. You are at your parents’ home, coming down to the kitchen for breakfast or seeing your childhood friends’ smile, memorizing the way their lips part and stretch out in a friendly greeting. The next morning you find yourself far, far away, in a place you know you will soon know, yet which for now remains a labyrinth, unknown and unexplored. I remember getting lost on the first day at college. Now, after days of walking what then seemed to be an enigmatic maze, I know these roads by heart. And even if I shut my eyelids tight together, I’d navigate the chaos of buildings, intersections, traffic lights, and bus stops with an undeniable confidence. In so little time the comfort of place settled deep into my daily existence. And then over winter break I went back to my parents’ house.
As I drove through the city, opened the door to my room, felt my dog’s fur, I had the strangest sensation that everything that happened in college was nothing but a dream. What was right in front of me felt like the absolute reality nothing could surpass. The only thing that changed was my friends’ smiles: little lines now carved the skin around the corners of their lips and eyes, and it reminded me of the four months we spent apart.
In less than a month from the moment I went back I was yet again walking the familiar labyrinth, taking even more labyrinth-like shortcuts to class. A similar perception of reality occurred yet again, but now completely reversed: now my hometown, my room, and even my dog belonged to nonexistent reality of distance. That is how a year of living in a new setting compares to eighteen years of continuous living in the same space and breathing the same year. I learned to accept that my life is divided into so many parts, and only the present matters, yet the confusion remains, and one question seems unescapable: when these parallel lines are going to cross.
The mystery of the airplane, nonetheless, is solved for now: a link between locations, it ensures comfort because it does not claim to belong to either of the so-called realities. Airplanes are always on their own, linked only to airports, all at the same time, and having a microscopic reality of their own, one with the narrow aisles, cold boxed lunches, and ever-polite attendants. And when the massive metal shell full of strangers takes off, every one of my imagined realities fades out, giving space to the uncountable possibilities.