Thursday, June 21, 2012

Extreme Care: Flight 1895


            “Did you see that?” he umpfs.
            “No. What?” I answer as my foot casually pushes my bag under the seat in front of me.
            “Fallen Solider. Just put on the plane.”
            “F**king cardboard box.”
            “What?” I swivel.
            “They always say, don’t they, ‘Don’t end up in a cardboard box,’ and that’s what he was in a cardboard box,” he looks right through me, continuing,  “Cardboard, and plywood frame. Not a plywood box, but a frame of wood so I guess he doesn’t roll out, with a stamp that says ‘Extreme Care,’ and a baby blue handle.”
            “To grab –“
            “No, just a trimming, just a bit of trimming. The stewardess says that sometimes the captain of the plane will get out and salute him, but they are tight on time today,” his eyes, still moving, meet mine.
            “That is incredible, I –“
            “You should have seen it. I mean on tv they show you all of what they want you to see, but they don’t want you to see that. No they don’t want you to f**kin’ see that. You would think a family member or someone from the service would – “
            “If the government won’t pay for a box, why would they pay for someone to fly with the body?”
            “You’re right,” he laughs uncomfortably. “Ain’t that the truth. You’re right. What a fool.”

            Forty-five minutes later, I discover the man’s name: Michael. He is a successful lawyer, travels avidly, surrounds himself with fascinating people, enjoys financial freedom, blackjack, boxing, cigars and affairs, living in a loveless marriage of twenty years with a woman he compartmentalizes his respect for as a “phenomenal mother, but not my match as a partner.”
            It’s amazing what we will tell strangers, is it not?
            “Now, I’m not judging, but the affairs, really twelve?”
            “If I’m honest,” he sips his Gatorade, “but the last one is the only one I would have left my wife for.”
            “I don’t know how my wife and I ever had the four kids we do; we have been sleeping in separate bedrooms for fifteen of the twenty years of our marriage.”
            I consciously accept everything he says as true-ish. I am on a flight, nowhere to go; he is clearly a well put together man on the outside, and a lonely one on the inside. I have plenty of my own growing to do, so for this one flight 1895 to Atlanta, I simply listen and am present to this being. For whether the facts or true or not, it’s his reality. And for humans, until we see otherwise: Perception is reality.
            I take a deep breath and offer, “The last one?”
            “Yeah,” his voice trails off into wistfulness. “Three years. It was going on for three years, and I found out through facebook that she got married. A week after I had seen her for the last time.”
            “You what?” I feel trapped in an outlandish screenplay.
            I’ll give you the short of it: Michael traveled extensively to see the girl twenty years his junior, supported her financially to the tune of $7k a month, and all the while she was preparing to get engaged to another man.
            “And, I bought the whole thing about no sex before marriage,” he scoffs.
            “Wait, a minute. I am not condoning affairs, but you had a three year affair with a woman and you weren’t having sex?”
            “No really, we emailed like seven or eight times a day. You know she was a real down to Earth person; she made you feel good.”
            “Wait a minute, she was lying to you all those years and you say she was a good person?”
            “Well,” he stammers, “I didn’t think of it that way. I mean, how did you get that?”
            I don’t answer. We, humans of the heart, can never digest that our misaligned attachments are weak facades, porously simple to the observer.
             “So you pretty much paid her $7k a month to be your friend?”
            “Ah, well –“
            And that is the truth about money not buying you love. It can’t even buy you companionship; it certainly can’t keep your heart warm, or your arms full.
            “It’s okay Michael, we all want to be loved. So no matter what acumen we have in business, we can be fools to feel what we want to feel.”
            “I suppose so, what a fool I was,” he sighs.

            The plane descends and gratefully Atlanta approaches. At the beginning of our conversation, I was a smidge envious of Michael’s financial freedom. He explained, “Early on in life I knew money would give me freedom.” He’s right, but there were deeper chains and fears that bound him.
            As he turns towards me sheepishly, feeling a bit of a pauper in his designer suit, and I feeling quite grounded in my flip-flops, I smile, “No, you just want to be loved. Everyone does.”

            The plane rolls in to standing and I wonder the message of this man sitting next to me. A man who started the flight displaying such wealth and wisdom from protein intake to profit sharing margins: things I had no mastery in on either account, but I did have the experience of wanting to be loved and learning that it was only I that could insure that would happen. Still learning, still walking in to that one.
            I reach up to grab my overstuffed bag and hear Michael over my shoulder ask, “Do you need help?”
            “Nope, I got it,” I say. Maybe because my bag is a little flimsy, or I am a little lightheaded from the plane-o-drama, but the catching weight of the bag, reminds me of the unattended weight in the belly of the plane, a life lost, a life unintended.

            I look at Michael.
            “A helluva flight, huh?” he smiles, but I can see his mind is still on his last love and the ticking clock of relationships to come. Perhaps, what he wants to buy through his affairs, the security that someone will be there to notice his life, to receive its end, perhaps that is what we all want, but that insurance requires an investment of being, not of capital.

            It requires handling each heart, especially our own, with extreme care, and ensuring that the battles we wage are worth fighting and not more easily solved by listening and loving. It requires that we build relationships with quality materials, such as patience & respect, and honesty when we sell less than our best. It requires more than a passing fare, or a slipshod plan of connection. It requires more than I can know, yet all I must learn.

            Yes, we’re all traveling onward, in hopes that someone will leave the light on so we may safely land our way home.


That day I saw beneath dark clouds
the passing light over the water
and I heard the voice of the world speak out,
I knew then, as I had before
life is no passing memory of what has been
nor the remaining pages in a great book
waiting to be read.
It is the opening of eyes long closed.
It is the vision of far off things
seen for the silence they hold.
It is the heart after years
of secret conversing
speaking out loud in the clear air.
It is Moses in the desert
fallen to his knees before the lit bush.
It is the man throwing away his shoes
as if to enter heaven
and finding himself astonished,
opened at last,
fallen in love with solid ground.
  -- David Whyte
      from Songs for Coming Home
      ©1984 Many Rivers Press


Kathy said...

A peek into the silent corners of another's soul beautifully opened without damaging. Fragile and yet not. Thanks for being my milepost, yet again. Life is life, Kid.

Wisdom of One said...

Thank you!