On a Flight to Nowhere in Particular

Illustration by Michaela Early.

The forests of Giant Sequoias have become fields of poppy seeds. Cities are just neatly organized collections of light, street after street of soft orange glow. This is all I can think about, 40,000 feet above the Earth’s surface. It doesn’t cross my mind that there are almost certainly people amongst the redwoods, small enough that they’ve become invisible.

I’ve got the window seat, with my sister next to me in the middle. Fifteen minutes into the air, she’s asleep. I’ve got nothing. The only music downloaded on my phone is the Taylor Swift album I begged my mom to buy when I was eleven. This is all back before they put cable television into the backs of economy-class seating. 

The back corner of the plane belongs just to me. And I spend hours just staring, watching the landscape shift from green lush to yellow fields to red desert like a stoplight. How far away from home are we now? I ask myself. There’s no accessible answer.

At the front of the plane, there’s a crash and profuse apologies. Across the aisle, a father holds his daughter’s head, his hand reaching from her forehead to the back of her neck. A few rows up, a man with a bird tattoo sneaking above his collar yawns and presses his hands up on the roof of the plane. I try to do the same but my arms don’t reach.

I’m thinking about all the corners of the world that I’ll never feel, the beaches whose sand will remain forever smooth. I’m just trying to get out of my head, and the Earth slowly moving past is no help. Stuck in the back of the plane, there’s nobody and nothing to take away from me the burden of analysis. 

For a long time, I thought cities were the places to which people went when they couldn’t find peace within themselves. The first day I touched down in New York, I was forced to consider if I myself needed bright lights and honking taxis and all of life becoming a speed-induced blur to just stop thinking.

I think my first trips leaving the country were the first times I wasn’t miserable. Living in a small town is a specific type of complacent misery which, I think, can only be seen from the outside. Internally, it looks a lot like contentment.  

By Colton Wills

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