The Feeling That Lasts As Long At It Needs To & No Longer

Before the flight attendant got us ginger ales and orange juices and waters, no ice. Before we reached our cruising altitude and the Fasten Seatbelt sign went off. 

Before that, the woman in a loose nightgown-y beach dress and jangly charm bracelet had grabbed her arm rests and let out a tight, terrified, “Oh my GOD!”

Our plane had dropped. Who knows how many feet - 20? 100? 1,704?

A baby cried. Adults cried. Who knows what deals were made with the devil in that moment.

And then, as quickly as our plane dropped, it righted. 

The woman turned to the passenger next to her. The two chatted rapidly, laughed in loud bursts. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but I knew that beneath their words, beneath the steadied breath between their words was the same as what was beneath the murmuring throughout the cabin: Relief.  

Soon, the flight attendants wheeled out drinks and pretzels, warned us to move elbows and knees. The pilot reported the weather in Raleigh-Durham.

And so quickly, relief was gone. Replaced by whatever fills the vacuum the great fear once occupied.

Relief, gushing and sweet, seems to last as long as it needs to, but no longer. We can hold onto it as well as we can hold onto a fistful of mid-afternoon light.

We landed in North Carolina. Which is also dropping, only the intended and expected kind. Down the jet bridge we went.

We can’t exist in a continuous state of relief. After all, it needs its opposite to be felt. But we can recollect relief as the poets recollect the mid-afternoon light long after it’s passed. Which is to say, we can bring it back to mind, sit with it, share of it. And with that, we can linger on the great gratitude that the great fear is no longer with us.

So we who had been in the cabin, we who had drunk ginger ale, we who had grabbed our arm rests, we who had felt relief, walked out into the North Carolina mid-afternoon light.

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