My relationship with time is strained; it wins every fight.
5 a.m. Pacific Time – Los Angeles to New York
I’m transfixed with the black and white tiles of the bathroom floor. I ought to be grabbing toiletries to pack. My flight to New York leaves in five hours. I haven’t slept for thirty-six hours, so zoning out is par for the course. There have been errands and organizing and projects to wrap up. Sleep is for people who accept that time moves forward even if you don’t. Usually I would be mad at myself.
My eyes feel like they’re gleaming as I snap out of my tile fixation. Happy, I’m happy! I’m going home after two whole years. Home is where family is. If they moved to Antarctica, Antarctica would be home. But it so happens, home is Manhattan. I decide to call my brother, knowing he’s awake and three hours ahead.
“Are you at the airport?” He sounds surprised. He knows I’ve missed planes in the past.
“Not yet.” He doesn’t need to know I haven’t packed yet. My brain is in sleep mode as I force my body upright, and my words take on a slack rubber band quality:
“But this morning is the first time I’ve felt happiness since September.”
I call my parents to tell them the same thing.
I only realize the feeling has been absent now that I feel it again. It’s not about laughing or having fun. I’ve done plenty of both since September. It’s this deeper, inner sensation, and it’s been gone since I found out about S. dying. There have been memorials for S. in Ireland and Argentina, but none of his New York friends knew, so I’ve arranged for a New York memorial.
5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time – The Sky
We’re minutes away from landing. I’m in the window seat, in and out of sleep in a manner unkind to my neck. There’s a cute, apple-cheeked kid next to me. His mother in the aisle seat looks just like him. I pull up my shade to see the sky is pitch black. Four hours ago we were in Pacific Time and too much brightness.
My relationship with time is strained; it wins every fight. But I can’t help admire its mix of quirk and dexterity when it comes to this day/night business divided up into time zones.
Below, it’s all black velvet and glitter. Dots of lights spread across the earth like it’s covered in a jeweled blanket. The light grids in residential blocks look about the size of kitchen matchboxes, and the snaking, jewel-lined highway looks about the width of a belt. I make out a stadium, illuminated by an inner glow, enormous compared to the matchboxes. In the distance, there’s blackness. It’s the Atlantic. The plane is about to fly over it for its customary U-turn before landing at JFK for a reason I’ve forgotten and must relearn. We begin our slow circle and the earth is tilted and divided between its glittery covering and Atlantic blackness. There’s no line between black sky and black water.
Then somewhere beyond the glitter I notice a massive reddish glow. At first glance it looks like a giant blaze, but it appears solid and shaped like a trophy cup. I squint to concentrate on it. It’s two or three times the size of the stadium, yet too far away in the horizon for me to determine if it’s a structure among the glitter or on the water. I don’t understand it’s sheer enormity compared to everything else.
I consider that I might be hallucinating due to sleep deprivation, so I reach below my seat to get glasses out of my purse, but pull up the life-preserver instead. I’m in a panic because by the time I find my glasses, we’ll surely pass the shape. Somehow though, while the terrain of the glitter in closer proximity changes dramatically, the shape is still beyond it, barely moved, a massive orange trophy.
When I finally manage to put on my glasses, it causes me more confusion because now I see for certain it’s completely unidentifiable.
“Excuse me,” I turn to the cute kid’s mom who’s fussing with him. “What is that? That huge orange thing.” I point out the window and she leans in for a look.
“Oh my god, is it an explosion?” She asks. It does look a bit like a fiery mushroom cloud. I scan the cabin to see if anyone else has noticed it, but most shades are down. The flight attendants are buckled in at their station. I need to unbuckle to go to them — I can’t let this object disappear without knowing what it is. Just before getting up, I take one last look to make sure it’s still there, and that’s when I see the trophy cup is detached from the glittery land and on the water. Or maybe it’s over the water. And all at once, I know what it is.
It’s the moon. A massive, blood orange moon with cloud silhouettes obscuring its circular shape. A moon of such color and size I wouldn’t have thought possible. And in the middle of all that black, it glows more fiery than the sun. (continued)
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