flying in

Turning to my neighbor and enjoying an excuse to use the cliche, I said, “I can literally see my house from here.”

He turned toward the window as if he could see it, too. Out of politeness or empathy, I suppose. Just a reflex. I might have done the same thing.

I’d avoided talking to him so far. If there is anything I hate on an airplane, it’s verbosity, but we were so close, I thought I could risk it.

He wore a fedora and a black short-sleeve oxford shirt. He looked to be in his late 50s. His arms were covered with coarse brown and gray hairs, and the backs of his hands were spotty and freckled. I mention these details, because I looked at him so little, I believe it’s all I saw of him. I think he wore glasses.

I imagined he was a man who said “cat” and “cool” and “babe” a lot and who liked to sit in bars and recommend jazz clubs to tourists.

I was probably completely wrong.

It wasn’t strictly true that I could see my house — but it was possible, so I let the syntax stand. We were close enough. I could see my block. Ergo, I could see my house.

We had just curved slowly over Center City. The edges of the crystalline spires of Liberty Place glowed red that night, and the mirrored panes of glass shimmering like spangles from one to the next as we rotated past seemed close enough to touch.

From there, I could trace my way through the lighted grid below us. The streets spread out like a geometry problem. There’s Broad. There’s East Passyunk. That’s the Acme. So that’s Reed, Dickinson, Tasker, Morris, Moore, Mifflin. There’s the Catholic high school. My house should be just about… there.

Seemed a shame to go all the way to the airport to catch a cab all the way back up here. Couldn’t I just parachute out and walk home? Surely I’d land somewhere nearby.

But of course not. That would be silly. I had a checked bag that I needed to claim.

“Coming from Detroit,” my neighbor said, “this place must seem so beautiful.”

It was beautiful. And where I came from had nothing to do with it.


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the untallied hours

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