by Michael T Brooks
I can't die like this. Not with these strangers wailing about God and Jesus and their mothers. Not with the nose of the plane doing six hundred miles per hour towards a cornfield in some godforsaken Midwestern plain. Not like this.
The jetway smells of faded industrial carpet with a dusting of exhaust. We file into the terminal like veterans returning from battle--clothing decorated with tears and puke and sweat and piss and shit. The airline employees look on timidly, wanting to comfort but improperly trained to deal with the remnants of communal near-death catharsis. Perhaps this year's customer service conference will include a breakout session. Just a suggestion.
People in the gate area grow curiously quiet as we go by. I watch a young girl pull her earphones off and close the magazine on her lap. The seat next to her is ripped at the seams, yellowed stuffing peeking through, and the businessman on the row behind is drinking a grande latte with chocolate sprinkles on the whipped cream. Details. Unimportant, trivial, useless. Doesn't matter. Fill my head--help me forget the still urgent desire to shit my pants and scream like a baby.
I get off the elevator on the wrong floor of the parking deck. Was I on 4-B Purple or 5-D Crimson? I stop and lean my hand against the back of a pickup truck.
It comes, hard and ragged. I throw up seven or eight times, gagging on nothing after the first three tosses. Gasp for air. Tremble. Gag again. Tears hemorrhage from my face, jumping from my cheeks to the dusty concrete in their perfect teardrop shape.
An airline representative, Ms. Sklenner, was brought onboard after the paramedics removed the injured and dead. The heavy guy in front of me, 17F, couldn't take the stress and his ticker crapped out. A handful of people couldn't stop crying or breathe right so they were escorted off with urgency. The rest of us, those who had somehow gotten their shit back together, were trapped onboard what would have been our vessel to the afterlife while Ms. Sklenner apologized profusely on behalf of the airline and promised to be in touch with some manner of compensation.