TAKE OFF

"When I was younger, I flew everywhere. Somehow, somewhere between the ages of 11 and 20, however, I became terrified of planes; perhaps it was the blatant lack of control that had done it to me. On that particular day, I was on my way from Chicago to New York to meet my lover of five months. We had some reconciling to do.

The takeoff is the worst.

There's this extended moment between the instant the wheels abandon the runway and the vehicle reaching full altitude where I'm positive the cabin will depressurize, my eyes will explode, and a wall will collapse, ripping out limbs and organs. To cope with this debilitating fear, I had taken my roommate's advice and successfully gotten completely sloshed before boarding. In addition to lacking all depth perception, I had become extremely friendly.

Needless to say, the takeoff was amazing, except for that upside-down stomach sensation. I turned to Nathan, the man beside me whose name I demanded to know, and began lecturing him on the importance of dishsoap and the convenience of gas stations on small highways. Somehow, I managed to tell Nathan my entire life story, including the one time I was in Switzerland and got stuck I the elevator.

Feigning interest, I'm sure that Nathan was relieved when we reached a patch of turbulent clouds and I had to flee to the lavatory. Inside, after having emptied my stomach of its entire contents, I started reading the No Smoking sign in all four languages. I had verbalized half of what I believed to be Chinese when there was a desperate knock on the collapsible door.

"Uh, anyone in there?"

"Damn it, I'm reading Chinese here!" I slurred, returning the anxious knock.

The man outside my door went silent for a few seconds before trying again.

"Really, I hate to be a bother, but it is imperative that I use the toilet."

I began laughing as I envision him crossing his legs in pure agony.

"Spell that word!" I entertained myself.

"I'm sorry, spell what?"

"That big word! Im-per-ish-tilitive!" Hi. My name is Kate and I'm majoring in Comparative Literature at an Ivy League school.

"Um, i-m-p-" he began as I stopped listening and reoccupied myself with the Chinese gibberish.

Before he reached "t," the doors suddenly flew open revealing the very angry man who had just kicked them and my face smushed against the wall as I fingered the Chinese letters.

"Hey! What if I was pissing!"

Furious, the man reached for me to push me off the seat he so desperately needed at the exact moment that the plane jolted. The man with a very full bladder fell on top of me and the doors flapped closed once more.

"Oh, bloody fuck!" He slapped the wall above my head where his hand had landed. "God damn it!"

I exploded with laughter, "You pissed your pants!" I giggled, rolling into the wall beside me, "You actually pissed on yourself!"

"Well if you had let me in when -"

"Oh my God, it's all over your pants!" I started unbuttoning mine. "Here, you can have my pants; they're much cleaner."

Shocked, he stuttered, "Jesus, God, leave your pants on, I just-"

The angrier stewardess who noticed the incessant banging and screaming had rushed to our little piss box to help. Upon opening the door, however, all she witnessed was a partially pantless girl beneath a hovering man.

We were both fined $500 and banned from that particular airline for desecrating a federal lavatory.

Shamefully, we exited the plane in silence when it landed at LaGuardia. Still set off about the whole pants situation, my partner in crime kept rubbing the slightly darkened upper-inner thigh of his jeans. Feeling horribly guilty, and still somewhat disoriented, I followed him off the plane. As he realized what I was doing, he sped up. Determined, I grabbed at the back of his coat, snatching him back a bit.

"I-sorry," I laughed, smoothing the shoulders of his tan leather jacket as he squirmed beneath me. "I just wanted-Mm." Still dizzy, I parked the suitcase beside me and leaned on the handle. "Apologize, I needed to apologize for not exiting the bathroom in a more timely fashion." I tossed my hair back, satisfied that I completed my thought without falling over.

"It's fine, really."

"I feel absolutely horrible. I-let me buy you some coffee?"

He flinched. "I'm really in a rush; I have to meet someone."

"Oh." I had temporarily forgot my own reason for flying to New York.

"Just five minutes?" I don't know why I'd been so persistent.

Finding this the only way of ridding himself of my, he agreed, and I ordered a double espresso at his request. I watched as he reached into his coat, revealing a flask and pouring a pinch into the already potent beverage.

"My name is Kate, by the way." I leaned over the petit table to shake his hand.

Not returning my enthusiasm, he merely stirred his espresso with the end of his spoon and muttered, "Taylor."

"So, Taylor, what brings you to New York?"

He glanced up from his drink, eyeing me, and dryly answered,

"Employment."

"Interesting. What do you do?"

Annoyed by my unsolicited prodding, he leaned back in his chair and tasted his toxic drink. "I'm a musician." He was proud, composed when he responded.

I'm certain I laughed and that he was offended.

"I play piano at a jazz club."

"Oh, you do? I'm a big fan of jazz." Lie. Lie. Lie.

He perked up. "Really? What do you think of Armstrong? Personally, he's overrated, but I can never find anyone to agree with me."

I knew shit about jazz and honestly had stopped listening to what he was saying. Instead, I enjoyed the view, the way his face lit up when he preached about his passion, the way his left leg bounced with excitement.

"But if you want to hear something amazing, show up on Wednesday nights."

He was absolutely delicious, really.

"Wednesdays. Right."

"What was it you said you did?" His left leg kept jolting.

"Nothing right now, I'm still in school."

"School?" The word was poison in his mouth. "Where?"

"University of Chicago. I'm studying comparative literature."

He leaned back once again. "You realize you asked me how to spell 'imperative,' don't you?"

I laughed. "Our little secret."

From within my carry-on bag, I could hear my phone ringing. Without answering, I knew who was calling and honestly, I was sad to have to leave.

"My ride-" I said quickly. Love affair of five months had just been reduced to mere transportation. "Um, good luck with that piano thing." I began walking away. "And sorry, again."

"My pleasure," I could read the inaudible message from his lips as he gestured goodbye.