Denver to Omaha by Cat Dixon
The 4pm take-off had been delayed because of ice on the wings—freak October storm. Folks grumble. Flight attendants soothe with vodka and free pretzels and nuts. In seat 12B, I fidget with my skirt, my hair, the handle of my purse, annoyed with the bags of peanuts I classify as dangerous thanks to my daughter’s allergy, and even though she’s not with me now, the foil pops and crackles of those bags are like grenades and land mines exploding. I open my carry-on at my feet which holds books to read. I’d lugged all of this to the mountains and now must lug it home. I fish out a new book, signed by the author—a gift for you.
Twenty minutes into the flight, the cabin lights flicker. I count the number of aisles to the nearest exit—portal to cloud, snow, fog. Just to be safe. When the lights go out, a child whines. When the plane hiccups, jostling stomachs and luggage, I wonder why the floor illumination we were promised would light the way during an emergency doesn’t spark. I think of your hands on my thighs in the dark, you whispering my name, your sharp scent after a morning jog. “Oh, God, is this happening?” The lady behind me cries. I brace my back, push into the seat: become part of the plane, become part of the plane, a chant to drown out the passengers—the rumbles of the engine.
The masks, demonstrated by the flight attendant as we waited impatiently on the tarmac, do not fall; the flight attendant does not call over the intercom or enter the cabin; the plane does not level out. The nosedive rocks us to silence. One moment you’re in the air annoyed by a man crunching peanuts across the aisle; the next, you’re in a cradle in a treetop. The branch cracks. Now the descent. The plummet to exit. Here is the screech of metal—rows of seats crunching together like an accordion and the roof scraping off like a lid from a can of corn. We spin until finding rest here. Snowflakes fall from the sky, and I sit at a bench in Elmwood Park.
I wait for my daughter to finish a snowman. I promise hot chocolate with her blanket warm from the dryer once we return home. I raise my right hand covered with blood and snow. This is not Omaha. This is not a park. The little girl with her white coat disappears into a drift. I can’t move to dig her out of the abyss, and you will not save us for you escaped years ago.
Cat Dixon is the author of Eva and Too Heavy to Carry (Stephen F. Austin University Press, 2016, 2014) and the chapbook, Table for Two (Poet's Haven, 2019). Work forthcoming from Sledgehammer Lit and Whale Road Review. She is a poetry editor at The Good Life Review.