No breaks (from a plane)

There were times I felt like I had to write, I had the impulse, to save the moment. I thought I could just throw my arms out and surround it, I could throw my line in the water and bring back something worth keeping. I could piece together moments and make a whole life out of it, an identity born out of what I wrote because I was a writer. But once you sign on for that it’s a commitment you need to keep. When I let it go, there was nothing to replace it with. I tried on other “selves” (you can wear many), and some look better than others.

I sat in the aisle seat at the Schiphol airport thinking about that and picked up my phone to write. I took off the disposable sleep mask, but kept my headphones on. We had just been through London, Munich and Amsterdam in five days. Six nights away from home, counting the red-eye. On the last day I woke to my phone buzzing with mail, made the mistake of looking at it, got irritated and not long after, I got out of bed. I logged on and saw my reflection in the dark, and it wasn’t good. I sent some emails and closed it down and then packed up my things and went down to the lobby. The night guy was signing off. Breakfast wasn’t ready yet, I was 10 minutes early. I sent more messages from my phone, one to my client saying I’m here now, join me if you can. Then I ate, had two coffees, got the taxi for the airport, and sat in the back seat looking outside at the fog. We talked about our times in Amsterdam, before. We both felt good, going home. I pictured myself there and so did my client Jo, and we got to the airport sooner than we thought we would. I had to change my seat, and she had to eat, and everything went as it should.

I sat on the plane remembering the week, the small scenes like cards shuffling: the Italian restaurant from our last night, the walk back to the hotel, having a last drink at the hotel and looking for pictures of my dog on the phone. Feeling sad and disconnected from those scenes: my life, in sketches, what I took, what I saved. We all said goodbye and goodnight, and then I hit my head on the wall getting into bed, forgot to wear my night guard and felt the cold on my teeth in the morning. We hadn’t even been in Munich a full 24 hours, in and out. It was the first day of spring and I taught everyone the word Fruhling, I really stretched the word out in the middle when I said it. Before that we spent two nights in London, days full of meetings, hardly time for anything else. Business travel. Two words that shouldn’t go together. Me, passing through Holland and Germany in the airport with my blazer and carry-on, feeling like a businessman but not believing it, not wanting to, forgetting what it felt like to be a writer. It only feels that way when I’m writing.

When they brought the hot towels to clean your hands I used mine on my face. I saw myself landing and getting home to Dawn, opening our bedroom windows and trying to stay awake until it was time to go to bed. There was so much life left, sometimes you forget. There was so much you could go back and relive, but I wanted to believe the best was yet to come. I just couldn’t write about it yet.

The movies were starting up on the plane and so was the beverage service. There were no breaks on this trip, not until now. When I took my first drink it made me shudder as the gin hit my throat and floated to the top, but then I felt better and warm, I finished what I had to say.

On the screens, in the movies, I watched the scenes of the actors without any words. You can be whatever you want to be, good or bad, whatever you believe. And the moon was full, that first night in Amsterdam on the rooftop terrace, the highest I’d ever been in Amsterdam, but we hardly had any time for it. I walked to the edge to hear the church bells at 12, but we went back inside before the last one chimed. How much like a dream it all seemed.

Categories: identity, prose, travel, writing

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

16 replies

  1. Alienation is sweeping the nation. I’ve done so little business travel in my life. I should probably count myself lucky.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is so good and so real.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Mark for reading, I appreciate that. Hope you’re well my friend. Bill

      Liked by 1 person

      • You refer in your piece to our difference “selves.” I refer to it in my case as the different skin I have to put on to go to work. I’m getting worn out having to be somebody I’m not. But the end is drawing ever closer. Maybe by the end of this year.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I know, I’m hoping you can retire soon and hit the trail, do some more writing…all that. Skin is a good image for it. Wears through after time, doesn’t it?

        Liked by 1 person

  3. “Feeling like a businessman but not believing it, not wanting to.” Had a good friend say once “you and I will never be businessmen.” This was back in college, and while I didn’t want to be in business, part of me wondered what business he had telling me what I’ll never do. Then it I tried it for a while and damn if he wasn’t right. It’s worth it thought if it makes for good posts, like this one. Good line too about the ‘high’ rooftop.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha, I get that and feel similarly about business. You busted me on the rooftop reference, I had a little fun with the play on words there. Glad to be home, glad you liked the post too. You’d be proud of how much I edited out!


  4. So good Bill. Reminds me of the JB song Running on Empty: “You gotta do what you can just to keep your love alive, Try not to confuse it with what you do to survive.” Every thing I am good at is a struggle to make a career of, and so I never really had one. Just drifted. Lucky the old man had a solid trade and career at Boeing. You really do write beautifully, but the struggle is real. I’m glad you maintain this blog so we can be graced with a little of your literary magic. Keep it up Bill. Perhaps someday the dream will be realized…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Just chimming in to say hello! Not on here as much, but I always enjoy reading you through the email. Liked this one especially. Things are wonky these days (all days). That freaky deaky veil that seemed to seperate the waking and the sleep state is dropping, so everything can feel liminal, much like the airport itself. I got halfway thru the first draft on that novel on AI,
    I mentioned to you once on here, about AI coming into personhood and latching on and effecting certain people’s lives (the algorithm). Anyway, had to stop that in the same spirit you convey here, sometimes things just go too wonky, not bad,
    but surreal, like a painting coming alive relfecting on itsef (or AI starting to actually talk to u as you’re writing a novel about AI talking to people!). Fun stuff! Can give you the wiles. Gotta shake it out…or just sit in it, that’s what I’m realizing is best. Just breath it in. Thanks for breathing in Amsterdam for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Gosh, that’s a mini story right here, looking through a portal. I totally get the “painting coming alive” reference. I kind of wish mine would come alive, that’s a different problem…liminal a good word, too. Happy to hear from you again. Nothing artificial about it.


  6. I’m back from I-don’t-want-to-think-about-how-many years since my brief surge of commenting (immediately after you interviewed Rosemerry Trommer).

    Don’t know if this is your case, whether this is what’s actually underlying in this post, but it seems I’ve spent all my life, adult life anyway, flitting around writing without ever really landing. And even here, back home, life can seem only a hazy dream of moving from one room to another. Too often it does seem nothing other than, “Onward through the fog.” (Or, Onward through the slog, as I often paraphrase it.) And, yup, that existential disconnect from ourselves—never mind others.
    *sigh* Oy vey. And so it goes.

    This, too, however: Sometimes, while you’re busy making other plans, someone comes along to tell you that, all the while, they’ve not been able to shake your writing; and while they’d indeed seemed silent and gone for ages, because of your writing, you’ve never been gone from them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Ed, I think that’s about the sweetest sentiment ever. Thank you for that and for reading, still! Great to hear from you, and to get this in the mail, so to speak. Peace to you and yours, Bill


  7. You capture the onward slog very well, Bill. That plod between meetings and onto airports, to planes, the routine we all fall into that carries us along through work and chores and more work, whether we fly or just catch the bus. It does feel like running on a wheel, a cycle you can never get off, unless something major happens. But then we’re luckier than some, aren’t we? You have your words and your writing and you capture these feelings for us all. And we know life would be emptier without the words. Sorry not to be around more, but lovely to read your work as always. Hope all’s well with you

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Lynn! You don’t need to ever be sorry for not being around more, as you say…we come and go in a sense and I’m just glad for when you do come by! Yes, it was a long week and I’m glad to be home. Wishing you a good start to yours. Bill


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