Upward Tilt | Teen Ink

Upward Tilt

July 10, 2013
By jjgrace, Austin, Texas
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jjgrace, Austin, Texas
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Favorite Quote:
"But when it comes to human beings, the only cause that matters is the final cause, the purpose. Once you understand what people really wants, you can't hate them anymore. You can fear them, but you can't hate them, because you had the same desires."


Author's note: I hope that people will think about human nature and the way that they're living their lives after this. I hope people can see that life is worth it and that it is beautiful, even in its final moments, and even when the fight for it gets ugly.

I didn’t expect them
to understand,
but I didn’t expect them
to like it either.
He and I
were perfect together.
We just worked
like a lock and key,
we clicked.
Caden and I
were made for each other-
but my parents
didn’t realize
just how far
we meant to go.
Not until we were already gone.
We boarded the plane,
at midnight,
while the stars still winked at us,
and the man in the moon smiled
knowingly,
like he was in on our plan.
Leaving cool,
leafy Washington,
where trees grew like grass,
for asphalt covered,
people inhabited,
New York city,
where dreams grew
twice as fast
was more simple
than I could imagine.
But
it was also
far more frightening.
Packing my bags
in the dark of night
and sneaking into
Caden’s faded blue
pick-up truck
giggling ignorantly,
had been easy.
Thoughtless, even.
But that was just it.
It was thoughtless.
And now
that I was sitting
on the plane,
about to leave the solid ground
and all sense
at only eighteen, as only a senior,
to live with
him,
I was starting
to remember how to think clearly.
And it was
as unpleasant
as walking barefoot on broken glass
or possibly
just thin ice
because it was still simple,
but only just.

The plane is
small but packed,
two to a row.
There is one
cramped lavatory,
and the pilot’s cabin,
but no first class.
I suppose that first class members
would think themselves
better
than to travel at midnight.
Besides,
the plane smells of old cheese and spice,
mixed together.
But I barely notice.
Caden
is sitting next to me,
smiling like he’s just won
the lottery,
or maybe something better.
He rubs my forehand with his thumb,
holding it there,
and my skin
tingles
as his thumb travels
back
and
forth.
He could rub my hand
raw, and I would not mind.
I feel ready for him,
and I know
he is ready for me.
But I don’t think either of us are ready for this.
And now it’s too late.
Across from us,
in the next row,
sit a girl and her
father.
Her eyes are
crystal blue,
and her hair
a curling blonde.
She shies away from her
father,
and his expression
hardens,
with the clench of a jaw,
and his brown eyes
glaze,
like he knows what he’s done,
but he tries not to remember.

I look back up
at Caden
with his piercing blue eyes
and dark, almost black hair-
his face pale but chiseled just
right, his skin
smelling of pine and sea water-
his longish hair
permanently ruffled by
a light, nonexistent breeze.
I wonder,
as always,
why he would want me
like he does,
whispering my name-
“Iris… Iris… Iris…”
like he always does.
With my brown curls
r e a c h i n g
and curling for my
lower back like vines,
and my greenish brown eyes,
always in between,
but never one
or the other,
except for when I cry,
and then they are
a sea foam green.
This is the
only
time that I like them,
but usually I
am too upset to care.
I don’t cry often.
I’m not too girly,
and I’m dressed in a
blue t shirt and long jeans,
my usual attire for Summer nights
like this one.
Caden’s in his
usual navy shirt,
light, board washed
jeans, and a
simple,
black, jacket.
And also,
as usual,
he takes
my breath
away.
But probably not as much as
when the captain,
without his co captain tonight,
announces that the plane is
ready
for take off,
gives us his safety spiel
over the intercom,
as my heart begins
to flutter,
and then starts
the plane,
which putters to
life,
its engine revving
before we pull
S l o w l y
out, inching our way
along the track,
outside the airport,
orange lights flashing,
beacons in the dark,
and men in similar colored
vests scatter from its path,
like ants from a giant,
white, metallic tennis shoe.
We leave the
ground,





G




N



I


T

F
I
L
into the sky
with increasing speed,
while my stomach
D
R
O
P
S
to the ground
and we leave it swiftly behind.

We slide through the
night as easily as
a leaf on the wind,
and just as
roughly too.
It is not my first time,
but it brings the same
thrill
because the experience is just as
new.
I never tear my eyes from Caden,
who is still calm and cool,
like maybe he is
so sure
that we will not fall,
because his very will
keeps the plane up.
A cheery flight attendant
with a large, red
bun and liquid brown eyes, with freckles
dotting her face
and a blue, pin straight suit squeezes
uncomfortably
through the aisle,
asking about drinks
and mixed nuts,
grinning sweetly as she
goes.
I look away,
uninterested,
because my stomach is churning too hard,
but first
an obtrusive man in
a red, yarn knit sweater
stops her, asking about
extra meals later.
He looks extremely uncomfortable,
Spilling out of his chair, his face red,
puffy and glistening with beads
of sweat,
his dirty blonde comb over
enough hair to be
sufficient on the
average man’s whole body,
his jeans threatening
to split at the seams,
and his pudgy toes
protruding from his blue sandals.
The seat next to him remains
vacant,
and I can’t help
but smile
thinking of his good fortune
and also that of whomever
would have gotten the seat.
Yet the man still
seems to be trying to confine himself to as
little space
as possible,
like he’s already intruded too much on others,
and can’t bear
to take anymore room.
I wonder about so many of these people, dressed in
casual clothing
but wearing different expressions.
Most are couples
but some complete, lonely looking
strangers.
For me,
besides Caden,
everyone was a stranger.
Including myself.

The captain comes down the aisle while we cruise,
wearing a rumpled
blue suit and
golden and red pins
on his jacket,
his brown, polished
shoes clopping on the
blue carpet.
His brown eyes glitter
and his cheeks wrinkle
with a smile
that shows white, shining
teeth
and confidence.
His brownish blonde hair
peeks out
with a cowlick from under his blue hat,
and he paces down
to the seat
next to us.
Caden returns to him
his own
ten-watt smile,
and the captain nods in acknowledgment
before turning with his
full, broad chest
to face the little girl, who just looks
terrified.
I think she thinks she’s going to be punished
without reason,
because that’s what she’s used to.
But the captain just
keeps smiling
and asks her about her name.
“Clara.”
she answers feebly.
He puts a hand on her shoulder,
and her father
sucks in through
his teeth, his eyes
burning,
like he can’t bear it.
Clara looks like she
is just trying hard
not to whimper.
She looks all about as she stands
and I give her a
reassuring smile
as she looks my way.
To my surprise,
she smiles back.
I giggle a little,
and so does she.
She is missing a few front teeth.
The captain keeps his hand
lightly placed on her shoulder,
and,
out of her father’s lapping,
grey
wake,
she is free to bound
alongside the captain,
having no trouble
squeezing between the
blue linoleum seats,
plastic white arm rests,
and fleshy elbows.
She disappears into the cockpit.
Her father just
stares darkly
after them,
and his gaze never
wavers,
his biceps tensed and tightened, like they just can’t
relax
until she is in their reach again.

“Are you cold?”
Caden asks me as I
shiver,
watching out the fogged window
as we leave
the lights of the city
below,
still climbing higher and higher,
in the dark lake of a sky.
He pushes the arm up that was separating us,
and motions for me to get in his arms.
Pressed against his
warm, secure chest,
I wonder if he’s having second thoughts
too.
My tremblingis actually from fear;
the plane is still
passing clouds and the horizon
so that they are almost not
visible
from where we glide,
and still we go






.





s





d




r




a



w



p


u
I could swear
we should be straightening
out by now,
but Caden isn’t worried,
so I know I shouldn’t be.
Then again,
Caden isn’t worried by much.
I can still clearly remember
the cigarette smoke smelling night,
when that man with
the crazed gleam in his eyes
caught Caden walking me home
from his place
so late,
because I’d fallen asleep in his arms
during the movie we’d watched,
and he hadn’t wanted to wake me.
The man was dressed
all in rags
but he had a knife,
gleaming menacingly under the stars and the street lamps
that he pushed us out from under, so that we couldn’t be seen
in the deserted street,
l


e



m
i


p



t
n

y



h
e

o



m
d

e

with
s
The guy had a dark, scraggly beard and
a thin, wrinkled mouth, and skin
so sallow and white,
he could have been
a ghost.
If only he were one.
He pointed at
my purse
with the tip of the knife
and said it was
all that he needed.
I had backed into
Caden,
who wrapped his arms tightly around me,
but he could do nothing
against a blade.
I threw, with a shaking hand,
the purse,
with its shoulder length
strap, and frayed denim
pockets, that didn’t actually have much
money inside.
Fifteen ones,
three quarters,
and that ridiculous,
blue lottery ticket that
Caden bought for me
when a man at the mall asked.
Seven,
two,
twelve,
seventeen,
thirty-two,
twenty-one.
I still remember,
not because it won
-it didn’t-
but because even my
blood rushes at the exact same pace
when I think of
that crystal clear night.
The man caught the bag
with gnarled, trembling fingers,
squatting excitedly to inspect it.
I thought we should run before
he discovered my total
lack
of money.
But
when I tried to
move, Caden gripped me
tighter, causing me to
wince and let out a little whoosh of air.
Caden loosened his arms,
but only a little,
just so that I could breathe.
He was still staring
stonily
at the man,
sadness glinting off his eyes.
I knew that look,
that one of complete determination,
when Caden wanted to fix something
and he wasn’t going to
give up.
I tried to lightly pry his arms off,
but he just shook his head,
his eyes never wavering
from the fumbling, muttering
man.
By the end of the night…
I had a new fear,
Caden had a new friend,
and the man, Greg,
had a new purse.

Yelling.
Lots of
yelling.
So many words-
hard to interpret,
angrily buzzing words-
like a swarm of bees
in a hive,
shaken violently and carelessly
by the hands of frustration.
Except that hive is
our cockpit, and
those bees are
a very disgruntled pilot,
a tearful little girl, and
one
exceptionally
angry father.
Caden and I listen to their argument,
like the rest of the plane.
I don’t think
it counts as eavesdropping
when they’re yelling it out for everyone to hear.
At first Caden was talking over it
in an attempt to soothe me,
so I didn’t hear it all-
but
nobody was quite sure what it was about.
“You think you can get away with this?!”
The father.
“I don’t see what I can do!”
The pilot.
“Daddy, what’s going on?”
The daughter, sniffling.
“Shush, Clara! There must be something you can do!”
“There’s just not! Please, John, er, Mr. Lilling, take your seat!”
“Take my seat? Take my seat?! Ha! Ha ha!”
It has been a few minutes since
Clara’s father
left his seat,
apparently fed up with bouncing
vigorously up and down, tapping his foot
until sweat beaded on his brow
and he flinching at the slightest sound of movement
from the top of the plane,
near the cockpit.
By now, Clara’s been in there for at least twenty minutes.
Those types of pilot visits
usually
take about five minutes.
The kid sees the controls,
shakes hands with Captain,
returns his
firm smile
with a wobbly salute,
and gets the little winged pin for their shirt.
But apparently not
this time.
Maybe he was just showing her more than usual,
right?
Even Caden seems nervous now.
He keeps on saying my name
and stroking my hair,
and playing with my fingers
with his own,
shaky ones.
Oh,
did I mention, we’re still going
up
and
up
and
up?
Yeah.
What I wouldn’t give
to not have this uneasy feeling
balling in my stomach-
even if that meant going home to my mom,
with her dark curls,
soft cheeks and coffee cream lips,
with blue eyes I swear can see
straight through you,
and my dad,
with his mocha skin and bald head,
which you know he always joked about,
because it has marker stains on it,
from where he used to let me draw on it.
I would even take the worst apartment
in New York,
and the community college
which was probably our budget, actually,
if it meant I could just land there
with Caden.
But soon the yelling dies down,
and Caden and I,
like the rest of the plane,
begin to murmur,
speculating and making a buzz
almost louder than the initial yelling.
“What was that about?”
I lean into him, both of us watching the door of the cockpit.
“No idea. Maybe the girl cut herself or something?”
He answers.
I grimace. But what would they trying to
stop? The bleeding?
“Maybe someone should check on them?”
Caden suggests, tensing his arms against the rests.
I lean harder into him, sighing.
“No, that doesn’t sound like a good idea.”
“Why not?”
He’s getting that determined look
again.
“They’ll work it out for themselves.”
I say, though I’m not really so sure.
I start picking at my lip-
a bad habit
that Caden wants me to stop.
He grabs my hand,
gently holding it in his,
and replaces the
open space
with his own lips,
and fireworks start.
We do, of course, have
some class.
But the seat next to us
is empty, and the fireworks
are more like fizzing sparklers.
They’re not hot enough to
cause me to melt,
nor bright enough to blind me
from all else.
But they have been.
Trust me there;
they have been.

There is a deafening
bang
as the cockpit door flies open,
and two wrestling, snarling men
burst through the doorway.
Clara cries out from
behind them,
as fists fly
and bodies tangle,
but the words manage to
hit harder than skin,
and seem to have a much wider reach.
“Everyone! Listen to me!”
Clara’s father calls for attention before
“No! Don’t listen! He’s delirious hey!”
The pilot is cut off by a large hook to the lip.
“Get off of m OW! BASTARD! This plane is about to “
“SHUT UP!”
the pilot roars angrily,
but it’s too
late.
“CRASH!”’
her father finishes
to silence.
Both men look at each other.
Both stop fighting.
Both sit up.
Both know the winner
of their small fight.
But neither are smiling.
Neither are really victorious.
Not in the least.
The pilot
slumps against the wall,
his head in his hands,
allowing the other man to talk.
The father looks awkwardly about
at the ashen faces
looking expectantly back at him.
The air is almost
as thick as water
with tension,
and just as
lacking in oxygen.
“We’re going to crash.”
He repeats slowly, like we could have
misheard him.
Clara isn’t the only girl
to gasp, and come to tears.
But most are still silent,
waiting for explanation.
Waiting for proof.
“It’s the…”
He tries to continue, but
blood from his nose is running into his mouth.
“The wing or something…”
he splutters.
He looks back helplessly
at the pilot,
who lifts his head,
smiles weakly at him,
and stands shakily,
his lip trickling blood.
He holds out a hand for the father,
and pulls him up too,
producing a handkerchief from his pocket,
and handing it to him
to stifle the blood
before Clara and her father
return to their seats, red faced.
Clara never looks
once
at her father,
tears running silently down her
small face.
He just dabs his nose with the handkerchief,
thoroughly unwilling to speak.
But nobody is watching them.
The pilot licks his lips
before beginning,
keeping a hand to the wall
to steady himself.
“Ladies and Gentlemen,”
He removes his hat
to reveal sweaty, sticky hair.
“I’m Stanley Ingram.”
He swallows.
“I must ask you not to panic. Flight eight zero eight is currently in an upward drive.”
“We’ve noticed,”
yells a small, pale man a few rows ahead.
His beady, dark eyes glint angrily.
His wife shushes him.
Mr. Ingram just nods.
“Due to a glitch, we cannot exit this upward drive, an exact three degree tilt.”
“Impossible!”
“No!”
“That’s bullshit!”
“Don’t play around!”
Mr. Ingram ignores the many, frustrated answers,
wiping sweat from his brow.
“It’s a glitch, a radio frequency interruption…”
“Well who left their damn cell phone on?!”
calls out a voluptuous dark girl
in the front row,
glaring around the aisles.
“I’m not sure it’s a cell phone, but it doesn’t matter who’s got what on now. I’ve called the airport station.
They don’t think there’s anything to be done.
This glitch looks permanent.”
Permanent.
As in there’s
nothing
to be done.
I’m not really sure that I’m completely familiar with the word.

Things that
aren’t
permanent:
Moving
My choices
Emotions
Day
Night
Fake Love
Life
This Plane
Things that
are
permanent:
History
Impacts
True, Real Love…
and Death.
So which one
is best?
Permanent,
or impermanent things?
I say both,
and neither.
And why is this,
the situation,
the glitch,
the plane,
not permanent?
Because it seems like
now,
everybody knows;
all that goes up
must come down.

Doomed.
That’s what they call us.
Under the influence of
an inexplicable force of nature,
but, I think, only if
you count our small, man made, metallic plane
as nature.
The people here have different,
almost funny ways
of thinking about it,
like different colors splattered across
and hiding
a canvas of the deepest black.
Some of them
are like a bright orange,
laughing about it as if it is
a simple matter.
Others
are a violent red,
blaming everyone and blinded by the brightness,
so that they
cannot see sense.
Others
are a somber blue.
They sob and they cry
and cling to each other,
moaning their long goodbyes.
Still others
are a blank white,
sitting quite still
in their seats and staring,
emptily forward.
You wouldn’t know
if perhaps they’re already gone.
But together,
the colors all mix to form
a dark, dismal, brownish sort of hue-
not at all that different
from the original canvas.

There there’s Caden and me.
I’m not sure how
I feel about
this.
What am I supposed to think about
the runaway plane,
originally headed to New York,
now having this new
destination?
Up.
Infinitely up.
And then the ground,
after we run out of gas,
or we just climb too high.
So now I’m just sitting
in my seat,
Caden’s hand wrapped around
mine, the other in his hair,
trying desperately to understand,
and coming up with nothing.
Caden says they’ll
find a way;
maybe if the device that caused the glitch
is still on,
they can at least try
turning it off.
But Mr. Ingram says that won’t work.
And yet Caden doesn’t believe
that we could be so
helpless,
and he’s still got that
determined gleam in his eyes.
Apparently we can
still use the low hanging, little
TVs, and we’re everywhere.
The four o’ clock,
the five,
and a small black caption
under every entertainment show
for breaking news.
Each of our pictures
are out-
mine is that awful one from junior year,
Caden’s is that gorgeous one from junior year,
and everybody wants to help us,
but nobody knows what to do.
I can imagine them all,
sitting in their living rooms,
feeling terrible but secretly
just happy it isn’t them.
I know I’d be the same,
but that doesn’t make me
any less bitter.
But maybe we’re trained to feel
less about the things that we cannot change.
There’s just nothing to be done.
I would call my mom
and turn on my phone
just to cry,
and hear her voice again,
and let her tell me things will be ok…
but I have Caden,
and I’m afraid
if I turn on my phone,
I’ll crash the plane
here and now,
just from all of both my parents’
angry calls.
Mr. Ingram is still
cooped up in his cockpit
trying to fix things,
according to the other harrowed flight attendant,
blonde hair, long black lashes,
half closed, wistful blue eyes.
I haven’t seen the other,
red haired one,
since Mr. Ingram closed
the cockpit door.
He’s still not taking questions.
But we all have so many.

Are we out of options?
Is there any hope?
How many parachutes are there?
Can we cushion the fall?
Do you know where we’ll fall?
Can someone connect to us?
And please, please, how long do we have?

Silence.
Silence.
Silence.
No.
No.
No.
More silence.
Why is the silence
the loudest thing?
Why is that what's
hurting me the most?
Why is silence
fueling the commotion?

We have only just found answers,
but one man just made
a decision.
I can’t say it’s one
I would have chosen.
But you never know how desperate we’ll be.
Our only source of information
is the news.
And we just found out the answers to all our questions.
I can’t say they’re some
that I like either.
There are no options.
There is no hope,
not to survive.
For some reason I’m
clinging
to the hope that I’ll do something
meaningful
with my last few hours.
What will I mean to the people
that I leave behind?
What will any of this mean?
I can’t just be a plane crash.
I can’t
just be
a tragedy.
We have only two parachutes.
More importantly,
we have only three hours.
That was the breaking point
for the large man
sitting in the row ahead
of Clara’s.
I am still crying,
shocked and frozen,
the hot tears doing nothing
to warm my face,
my hair wild,
while Caden tries valiantly
to comb it with his fingers,
and calm me.
My scalp tingles from his touch,
but not enough.
Not enough to make me forget.
The man’s name, we never knew.
We never found out his story either.
But when we all heard
the time limit
set on our lives,
he burst into great, heaving sobs,
rising instantly from his seat,
breaking his seat belt in
a wild rampage
as he went,
barreling over the present flight attendant,
who cried out and was caught
by a man and woman in the front.
They were sitting
right next to the emergency door.
The next thing I knew,
wind had filled the plane,
nipping fiercely at my skin,
blowing so I could barely see,
howling so I could barely hear-
but I most definitely heard
the shout of mad end,
as the wind caught the man,
and carried his large form away
like a ragdoll.
Someone eventually managed to close the door.
Now we all sit
in stunned silence,
wondering if the man
will be alone in his choice.

It has been
five minutes
since the man jumped.
But,
considering our time left,
it was enough.
Now we all stand,
for the last few moments before turbulence,
hand in hand,
stating our names,
and our stories.
Caden’s hand is wrapped
around mine,
his other never leaving his hair,
while my other hand holds Clara’s
warm, fragile fingers tight.
The pilot and his attendant are still hiding.
Caden starts.
“I’m Caden. I’m eighteen.
Last year, I fell in love.
Tonight, I was trying to show her how much.
I’m hoping that I’ll still get the chance.”
I try not to choke on the tears now.
“I’m Iris. Last year, I fell in love too.
Somehow, he loves me back.
And I know how much. It’s just amazing to me.”
I lean into Caden, smiling
in spite of the warm tears
in my half-closed eyes.
“I’m Clara.”
Clara starts feebly.
“And I can’t wait to visit Mommy.”
She never looks up once,
her long eyelashes looking even longer.
Her father sniffs.
“I’m John, Clara’s father. Two months ago, her mother, my wife, died.
She loved our yearly trip to New York. It’s been… hard, since she left.
But now I guess I’ll be seeing her soon.”
Many people nod knowingly.
And it goes on.
“I’m a hopeless romantic.”
“I finally got a job offer.”
“I’m an ex drunk.”
“My mother just died.”
“We’re not crashing, I’m not talking.”
That last one, I hear
a couple of times.
But,
as much as I hate it,
they know the truth.
We are crashing.
And now
I wonder whether this
was really a great idea.
Now all of these doomed people
have faces.
Now I have to ache
for them too.

I fall asleep,
After whispering fervently to Caden.
I ask him about what he thinks comes
after death.
He says if he was
lucky enough
to meet me,
he’ll go to Heaven.
When I ask
where it’ll be,
he says that, of course, it’ll be
wherever I am.
I smile,
ever so softly,
and, more tired than I realized,
fall asleep,
not thinking about time,
and leaning on Caden’s shoulder,
resolved never to tell him
that I don’t believe in Heaven,
and that our only time is now
and I may have wasted it.

Caden and I
stand at the edge
of the plane’s wing,
rushing through the sky,
and holding to each other,
the wind barely touching us.
I cannot see the ground,
or even the clouds,
but we both know it’s there,
waiting to catch us
as we jump.
Billowing cloth keeps
the wind in its folds
and us on its strings,
until we can float
gently to the ground,
leaving the plane and
all the rest
behind,
a wild smile of
bliss on Caden’s face-
but the gleam in his eyes
is doused out, and dulled.
He looks gorgeous
on the rising sun,
which streaks pink playfully
and indifferently
across the sky.
Gorgeous,
but wrong.

I wake to find my nose
two inches from the ground,
my hand sweating-
or maybe it’s Caden’s sweat,
from the grip his own skin
has on mine.

The floor
lashes out at me
like a fierce enemy,
and Caden holds on,
like all I have depends on not falling down.
My seat belt no longer
restrains me,
but clanks against the folded back armrests
behind me.
As Caden pulls me up,
my stomach across his lap,
my eyes widen in relief.
“Sorry.”
Caden breaths,
digging in the scratchy cushions for
my seat belt before redoing it.
“I’m guessing we’ve hit the turbulence.”
I say while empty shock ripples through me,
and the plane convulses as if it’s having a seizure.
Funny, how before I thought this plane was my safety and hope,
and now I see it as my dire enemy.
Those changes happen so fast.
I hope it’s not that easy to change an opinion
when it comes to people and love.
“Yeah.”
We sit in silence for
a moment,
but we both know that this is not the only
turbulence
we’re about to hit.
Talk of the parachutes
has struck the plane
with, as I learned,
barely two hours left.
I can’t believe
I slept
in my last hours-
but, if you think
about it…
wouldn’t you rather
die in your sleep?
Don’t most people say
that when they do go,
they want to be asleep?
Except
most people wouldn’t choose
eighteen
as the age.
Most people wouldn’t choose
a fiery explosion
as the cause.
I guess I just learned
that most of the time
you don’t have a choice.
But if I could have chosen,
I would much rather have slept
than been awake
for the upcoming pandemonium.

I always wish I were younger-
maybe just five or so-
so I could
kick,
and scream,
and yell,
and tell everyone to
just STOP,
and no more fighting,
and be excused for it all,
because of my age.
But I’m not.
Besides,
I’m not sure I would be heard
over the people who are being much,
much worse,
and far louder
than I could ever be.
I’m learning more than I ever thought I would here.
For one thing,
“adult”
doesn’t mean mature.
The blonde flight attendant
is cowering by the restroom door,
obviously terrified, and occasionally flying forward
from the bumps of the sky,
as arguments are raised.
An old woman
in a ratty pink cardigan
claims she’s a senior,
so she should get the first parachute.
Another, teenage girl,
smeared in eyeliner,
retorts that the woman
will die soon
anyways,
so she shouldn’t
have one at all,
and youngest should
go first.
And that’s when all Hell
breaks loose.
Caden and I
don’t speak,
as all words are
ridged and cut off half way
by the turbulence,
and aren’t comprehensible
anyways.
And yet
words fly like arrows,
and sting harder.
Now I remember the pointlessness
of fights like these;
of people who don’t even
know the half
of it.

“Iris I just “
“I don’t want to hear it.”
I interrupted loudly,
holding the phone so close to my lips that I sprayed it
with close to venomous spit.
“This is the third third! time that you’ve missed a date “
“But I really did have to work.”
“The first time sure, but what kind of hours has Stu even got you working at the gas station?”
“He’s afraid someone will rob it “
“And the second time!”
I yelled,
pacing through my blue and white
cloud themed room.
I pushed ferociously off of the
wall, only to run into
my white, metallic lamp,
knocking it over with a
clatter.
I swore under my breath,
which I don’t
usually
do.
“I got grounded!”
“For getting a B minus on a test?”
“Yeah, the latest of five! My parents are going crazy, and I could get in trouble with the football coaches if my grades go down!”
“Alright, fine, let’s pretend I believe you; what’s your excuse now?
Or will you even try this time?”
I slammed the lamp
back up on its stand only to have it fall back
on my foot.
I rubbed it sorely,
yelping in pain.
“What was that? Are you okay?”
“Don’t try to change the subject!”
I snapped,
irritated.
“Alright, alright… Iris “
His voice softened,
and I braced myself for the truth-
but it wasn’t exactly
what I was expecting.
“I’m in the hospital.”
“You’re what?”
I stopped,
falling back dumbly on my bed.
“I was trying to text you while I was coming to your place in my car, and I kind of… I hit a tree.”
He sighed, and I could
practically see
the faint red spots burning in his cheeks.
“Oh, Caden…” I laughed softly
at both of our stupidity-
but mostly mine-
before I worried.
“Two broken ribs and a fractured knee. I’m down at Washington Emergency.”
“Should I come?”
“No, the doctors say I can go soon. But you’ll be the first to sign my cast. It’s blue. You’d like it.”
“What about football?”
I remembered suddenly,
ignoring his attempt
to calm me down.
Caden was the team’s
best running back.
“It’s okay. I’ll have more time to spend with you.
I like to think I mean a lot more than my football position, anyways.
Oh, I gotta go, doctor’s back I’ll see you soon.”
“Bye, Caden.”
“I love you, Iris.”
I flipped the blue
Samsung shut,
holding it to my chest
as I fell back
against my cloud cushions
on my little four-poster,
laughing until tears
pricked in my eyes.
I’ve never really noticed
until just now,
but I should have
re done my room..
I’ve just realized;
I hate clouds.

The sky is
blood red
as we move
still going monotonously
up,
and up,
and up.
The captain
still hasn’t made an appearance.
Neither has the other flight attendant
now
it’s just that same
blonde woman
trembling in the back,
watching the ensuing
chaos.
I feel small,
but I put my hands up to my ears,
pulling away from Caden,
and closing my eyes
tightly.
I hear Caden
grumbling slightly,
from beside me,
sounding angry-
but then I feel
an insistent tapping,
hard and icy,
on my shoulder.
“Well?”
I force my eyes open
to see the
girl smeared with eye liner,
glaring down at me
imperiously.
Her voice punctures
my attempted calm.
“What?”
I croak.
She has one,
extremely thin eyebrow,
arched and pointed,
and she echoes impatience.
“You’re young.”
She says,
as if what she wants
is just so obvious.
“Older than you.”
I retort.
She couldn’t have been
more than fifteen-
and in maturity?
Probably even less.
But she doesn’t seem to mind.
“Exactly.”
she says, grinning.
I could swear I see
her tongue trace
her teeth maliciously,
like she has fangs,
and she’s checking
to make sure they’re still threateningly sharp.
I smile slightly.
I know her type,
and I know what she’s asking.
But I let her continue.
“Don’t you think we should survive?”
she says, raising her voice
a little to be heard
over the shouts of
the arguing men and woman.
Someone tumbles forward through the aisle
falling just behind her,
narrowly missing her,
but she doesn’t even flinch.
Like I said, I know her type.
She feeds on this;
panacea and drama
are her natural elements.
“It’s people like us
the youngest, that should get the parachutes.”
she insists.
I smile before countering,
“So you’re willing to die today?”
The girl stares at me for a moment,
blinking ignorantly.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
I only point behind her,
towards Clara,
who is watching her father intently.
His face is a dark mask,
and the girl blinks again,
following my gaze.
“You said the youngest.”
I say simply.
“Um yeah “
she says,
faltering, but catching
herself quickly.
“The ones with the most potential, I mean.”
she covers herself.
“She’ll just get swept into some foster home if she lives, though.
She’ll never get a chance to be normal. She’d just be a freak.
Nonexistent, practically.”
I grimace, thinking about this.
It was true that,
should Clara survive,
her father almost definitely
would not.
Her life would be difficult-
very difficult.
But not impossible.
“And you wouldn’t be the same?”
I raise my brow too,
and she seems to register me
for the first time.
She shifts her weight uncomfortably.
I’ve seen more than her, and she knows it.
But then, I wouldn’t call myself
any smarter.
“I… Why don’t you want to live?!”
Suddenly she’s panicking.
“What is it with you people? I don’t want to die! I’m not ready! Nobody should be!
…How old are you?”
“Eighteen.”
I answer calmly.
Beside me,
Caden is shuffling his feet,
unbuckling his seat belt for something,
but I don’t turn around.
“What’s your name?”
she asks.
“Iris.”
“Iris, why is eighteen long enough? How could you only live to eighteen, and be be happy with it? You can’t just be ready to go!”
I stare at her,
something like sympathy and pain balling in my chest.
“What’s your name?”
I ask her.
“Adela.”
Her eyes are wide with
a sort of panicked fear.
I hadn’t noticed before,
but she’s fidgeting, her fingers jumping off
of her leg occasionally,
tensed.
“Can I have a talk with you, Adela?”
I ask her seriously.
She nods,
and I turn to Caden, who stands,
like he’s been waiting
for his cue this whole time.
“Excuse me.”
He mutters,
standing shakily and
leaving the row of seats.
He mumbles something
about being fed up,
and finding out what the captain’s
up to
as he leaves,
and then I motion
for Adela to sit.
She looks at me for a moment,
then pushes past me,
brushing my tensely folded knees
and sitting reluctantly
in the seat.
Finally she looks at me straight,
and I see her
really see her,
for the first time.
“Please, Iris help me.”

A girl
killed herself
at our school,
in the middle of a rainy December.
Caden and I didn’t know her well,
but she was in our English class.
We were all sad to see it happen.
We all felt empty inside.
We all wished we’d reached out.
But Caden,
Caden was a different kind of sad.
Caden was mourning.
Every second of that following week
he was in a stupor.
He was only shaking his head
staring at the vacant seat
in our English class
each day,
that we left there in a pitiful memorial.
But that next Monday
Caden smiled again.
He smiled and he made everybody smile with him.
Caden had brought buttons to school that day,
and all they said were
“In Never Ending Memory- The Happy Days Club.”
They were neon, and impossible to miss.
And that’s just what he wanted.
Soon he had everybody wearing them,
whether they’d known the girl or not.
He spoke in each of his classes
and eventually at our assembly that Friday,
all about how people had to look out for each other.
How other people were the reason life was important
and we were wasting it by letting others end theirs.
We’ve graduated, but I’m pretty sure the club went on.
That button’s on my bag right now.

We talk for a long time.
She asks about death,
but I tell her
I
wouldn’t know any more than her.
She tells me how she was
running away
from her parents,
and I tell her…
well, I tell her
a little about that,
and Caden and me-
but probably not
everything.
She tells me how
disappointed
they would be in her
how much of a
mistake
it was to just bail out like that
and I tell her
I know what she means,
but she’s got to trust me-
and I think
I need to trust
myself
on this one too-
they still love her,
even if the call for adventure
was a siren’s song this time-
I think it was noble.
And they understand that,
and they love her anyways.
Just like my parents
are still loving me
somewhere out there, probably watching the news
or maybe they don’t know yet…
But that thought
just twists my stomach
even tighter.
The one thing that could be worse
than finding out now,
would be finding out
later.
Except that’s another thing
I don’t tell Adela.
“But how can you just… be ready to die?”
She asks,
watching me carefully.
I smile lightly
again.
Then I shake
my head,
my hair falling
in front of my eyes,
shielding me from her expectant gaze.
“I’m not.”
I admit,
quietly.
“Then why are you letting it happen?”
she presses.
“Because what else do you think I should do?”
I say,
more coldly than
I meant to.
“Steal somebody else’s chances? That’s murder- and even if I did survive, I couldn’t live with that.
It would be a waste of time.“
I shudder,
realizing that this,
at least,
is the truth,
the whole truth,
and nothing but
the truth.
“I’d kill myself before living with that kind of thing always on my back.”
I barely look up at her,
watching my hair
sway in front of my eyes.
“But I just “
She’s at a loss
for words,
for excuses,
for reasons.
“I’m afraid.”
she croaks finally.
She’s crying,
I don’t have to see it
to know
because I’m coming close myself.
“Fear is natural.”
I whisper.
“We’re all afraid. Why else do you think everybody would be fighting so much?
We don’t want everybody else to die- we just feel the pull of everything we’re leaving behind
more than we do the fear of the others. It’s actually a little sad that we don’t see that.”
“But… I want to go home. I want to see my parents tell them I’m sorry for all this s*** I started.”
She says it with
not only her
predominant venom,
but utter remorse,
and I resist
putting my arm
around her quaking shoulders
to comfort her.
“We’ve all got s*** to finish.”
I reply, surprising myself.
“Everyone does, and most people who get the choice to finish it don’t end up doing it.”
I sigh heavily.
I might not have known,
had this not happened,
but now I’ve realized
there’s just so much more to life
and now I’ll never get it.
“We’re just the ones that didn’t get lucky.”
I finish.
Adela considers me for
a second,
like maybe
I’m lying,
or doing something else that could
get her out of this,
but I can tell
she knows this is real.
Everybody does.
They’re all just
too afraid
to admit it.
“Iris?”
Something about
the way she says it
makes me look up, brushing my hair out
of my eyes.
Her eye liner
is sabotaged, running down her face
in dark, wet lines,
like the rain and the
thunder clouds
mixed together,
to make the ink
that was inscribed in
her cheeks now.
“Yeah?”
I ask.
“If we do survive this could we could we talk sometime?”
She looks slightly
desperate.
I stare at her
I don’t mean to,
I’m just not
so sure
what she’s asking.
“Girl to girl?”
she continues.
“I could use a friend right now somebody to help. It’s just you seem cool. You’re just so…you. And “
She pauses,
and I have difficulty
meeting her eyes again.
I’m just so…
me?
But then,
I guess,
I am just me.
What else
would I be?
“I admire that.”
she finishes.
I smile,
sad,
but appreciative.
This girl’s not really
so bad,
and I reach up
cautiously
to her face,
with my thumb out,
and wipe off
the tear tracks.
Cleared up,
clean,
and pure,
her eyes are
a bright,
intuitive blue.
And nobody would
have known.
“Show off your eyes.”
I say quietly,
not answering her question.
“They reflect who you are.”
I pull my hand back,
wiping off the eye liner
on my jeans.
She really does have
pretty eyes.
She smiles,
allowing the compliment.
Then she nods once,
standing and edging carefully out of the row,
and back down the aisle,
and she’s out of sight.
Then barely a second passes
and the door to the pilot cabin bangs open-
and if I’d thought we’d hit Hell
before…
we’d just gone under.

Caden steps out the door.
His eyes are half closed,
like he is holding on
to something,
something that
he can’t afford to lose.
And then,
as he holds up his pale hand,
his side leaning heavily against
the door frame,
I realize,
he is holding something.
It swings limply
in his hand,
which grasps it tightly,
but weakly.
It is plastic,
thin and clear,
torn down the middle,
and opened
a plastic bag.
Written across it
in large, black print,
is one word
parachute.
Caden holds
in his other hand,
its partner.
Both bags are empty.
“There’s a door.”
Says Caden slowly,
his lips barely moving.
“In the cockpit.”
He considers us
for a moment,
but we all know
what is coming next.
“He jumped.”
I had known it
before he said it,
but my spine
still prickles uncomfortably,
sending chills
up
and down
my neck.
“With the flight attendant.”
I hear a soft gasp
from behind me,
and I turn, craning my neck
along with everyone else.
The blonde flight attendant
is sitting,
looking stunned,
her eyes closed,
her chest heaving slowly.
“Are you alright, ma’am?”
Asks a big eyed, dark man
from near her.
She only shakes her head,
looking slightly wistful.
“He loved her.”
she says quietly,
all trace of her old
peppy, sweet smile
gone,
glimmering only slightly
reminiscently in her eyes.
“They had an affair, but I promised Rian I wouldn’t tell anyone- she said it was one time- that it wouldn’t happen again… And now she’s just out and gone- her and Stanley.”
The dark man puts
a hand on her shoulder,
and she looks at him
imploringly,
as if asking him a question-
how much worse can it get-
how can we survive-
why does he even care to comfort her at this point-
but he can give
no answer.
No one can.

Caden comes back slowly, and I let him in.
He sits,
and I watch him carefully.
Now it’s definite.
Those who were
leaving
are gone.
Those who are dying
well,
we’re all right here.
We’re sitting.
We’re waiting.
Realization seems
to finally have hit,
and it crashes over me
and everyone else,
in painful oceanic waves.
I can feel the salt,
the reminders,
and they burn in my skin.
“Iris…”
Caden whispers,
his lips
suddenly
close up to my ear.
I put my hands,
suddenly feeling raw
and numb
and too cold,
to his face,
and bring it gently towards mine.
I’m looking at him,
like all the times before,
and for a
moment,
everything seems the same-
but horribly different.
His eyes are still so blue
you could drown in them,
but now they reflect this
horrible, somber acceptance,
floating hopelessly to the surface.
His lips still flicker,
undecided in their emotions,
but in the wrong direction-
the wrong way-
like their tips
are pointing the way,
showing us where we’re going.
As if we would need any directions.
He still smells of pine,
and sea water,
but with none of its old,
wind blown freedom.
He’s given up.
“I love you, Iris.”
He could have said it.
It could have been in my head.
And then I remember,
I finally let it really
hit
me,
with a surging pain,
that puts me into
his shoulder,
wracking me with sobs,
what got us here.
Why we came,
when we could have stayed.
We’d had a choice,
but we’d chosen wrong.
We’d never been ready,
I knew that now,
even if the outcome
might have been the same,
and then
I have to ask him-
before it’s too late.
“Would you have married me?”
I say, my breath staggered
from our closeness.
He gazes into me,
and I smile weakly.
“Anything.”
he answers,
his hands on my shoulders.
And then my smile
dissipates.
“Would you have waited?”
I ask my new question,
and I see his expression meld
with another,
more concerned one.
“Forever.”

We were close.
It wasn’t only his skin,
melting into mine,
but his being.
I felt his heart beating,
against mine,
and it was one rhythm.
We were one.
Lock and key united,
breath and blood,
compelling our very reason
to become action.
I knew we were
much too young
for what we did
I tried to fool myself,
into thinking that I
didn’t care.
I don’t know
that either of us
were really ready.
But the house,
so empty-
my room,
so warm-
each other,
so madly,
terribly in love-
had proved all too enticing.
They say that you fall in love,
and for us,
it was true.
We
f
e
l
l
so hard.
But when we
fell,
we did it together,
hand in hand,
without a second thought,
like eager sky divers.
We never let go,
and never once let ourselves
slip apart.
And that’s why we did it.
It happened,
then and there,
and even though
we were never ready,
we did it.
But for every mindless action,
there is always a consequence.
This trip of ours,
born out of total insanity,
the nature of thrill and adventure,
and a will to start our lives
in the most memorable way possible,
is proof of that.
I couldn’t explain it,
but a few weeks after
that night,
I felt sick.
Something was wrong.
I called Caden,
and he came in a moment,
like he always did.
But he brought something with him.
Something I told him to get me.
Something I realized,
quite terribly,
that I might need.
He handed me the box,
blue, small,
but powerful,
and we opened it together.
I pulled out of it,
with a trembling hand,
a long, white stick,
with a little,
glowing blue circle
at the end.
It seemed too friendly.
So innocent.
Easy to use.
And it was.
But the results it gave…
they were far easy to hear.
Caden waited outside,
leaning against the bathroom door,
until I opened it,
and it squealed my reluctance
as I let him in.
I remember,
I showed him that little circle,
standing out on the screen,
and he asked me what it meant,
watching me quietly.
After a deep, shaky breath,
I just nodded.
He just held me.
We both
just
cried.

This is it.
The blonde flight attendant,
Cecilia,
as we learned her name is,
says that it’s probably okay,
as of right now,
to use our phones.
Everyone has to buckle up
the plane’s going to reach
its peak soon.
The man behind the radio
in the cockpit
announced it to us.
He says something
about us,
how they’ll never forget us,
down there.
But he doesn’t really understand.
He’s safe,
along with everyone else
back in their command room,
somewhere on the ground.
The ground.
I wish I were there,
but I don’t blame anyone
for my being up here.
I barely blame myself.
Taking life by the horns,
starting out with a bang-
little did we know we’d already started
long ago,
when we’d learned to talk,
just like this baby would’ve,
not long after its birth,
or maybe even before,
right now.
Our effects start young,
and in the end-
that’s all we really leave behind.
Cause and effect.
Permanent, and impermanent.
I’ve got to call my parents.
Caden’s holding my hand.
I try not to hurt his fingers
with my grip.
We hold our cell phones,
in our other, free hands,
and while Caden’s
blue, square one
rings
and rings
and rings,
with no answer,
and his hand squeezes
tighter
with each empty tone,
I dial the number
I know so well
into my own,
silver flip phone.
And it rings,
and rings,
and rings,
just like Caden’s
and then it crackles,
and a voice,
muffled, and with staggered breathing,
picks up.
“Hello?”
I close my eyes at the voice.
My mom.
She doesn’t sound angry,
or even blameful.
Only torn to pieces,
and broken.
And that,
I realize,
is much,
much worse.
“Hello? Is anyone there?”
she repeats.
A sudden panic
wells up inside of me,
and I jump to answer.
“Mom?”
“Iris! Is that you?”
she says, sounding disbelieving.
I hear the phone go to speaker
on the other end,
and I smile softly.
For a second I’m home,
sitting in the living room
with my parents,
looking down at that little red phone
with the long, curly cord
that I used to pull with my fingers
my life line now.
“Iris, honey, why how could you do this?”
My dad.
His voice is thick with remorse,
like he thinks,
just maybe,
he could have stopped me.
But I would have left anyways.
We all know that,
even if they didn’t know
why I’d gone.
“Mom, Dad, I’m so sorry “
I start.
“Oh, Iris!”
And then my mom is sobbing,
and I don’t know what to do,
or what to say.
Tears of my own
trickle down my cheeks,
and I try to stay brave
but I feel like the world
is ending
right now.
It’s that feeling,
the one you get
when you did something bad,
something you’re trying to hide
that prickling one
in your stomach
that never goes,
never leaves you alone,
until you make things right.
Except this time
I couldn’t just make it right.
“Please tell us it’s not true…”
my mom croaks.
I hear my dad shushing her,
trying to comfort her.
“I wish I could, Mommy, I wish I could!”
I choke on more tears,
but there’s no stopping them now.
I can feel myself breaking.
I haven’t called her Mommy
since I was too little
to remember,
but now I realize,
I’ve never stopped
thinking about her like that.
No matter what happened,
I could always come home,
no matter what,
there was always
someone
waiting,
I’d thought.
Now I knew different.
“I want to come home, I want to see you “
“We want you home too, more than anything.”
my dad says,
his voice bleak.
It occurs to me then
I’ve never heard him cry.
And now he does it openly,
his voice cracking
and I feel cracked all over,
a new chink appearing
with every pained breath
my parents exhale.
The plane’s started
to jostle more and more,
and the lights are beginning
to flicker,
casting momentary shadows
of us all
everywhere,
along the walls
and the windows,
casting my shadow into
the endless sky.
And I find my answer
to what to say,
because I know we won’t have
much longer.
“I’m pregnant.”
I say into a moment’s silence.
The line crackles,
and for a horrible second,
I think I’ve lost them.
“We know.”
my mom says,
her voice beginning to fade out.
“I love you.”
I say softly.
“We love you too.”
My dad answers.
And then I find it,
what I’ve been wanting to say
since my mom
first answered the phone.
“I’m coming home. This plane’s taking me home.”
They say nothing again,
but then,
finally,
my mom responds.
“We’ll meet you there someday.”
I cry harder, and I’m yelping,

“Mommy, Daddy, please tell me I did something right, please say I’ll be remembered for something besides this-“
but the line has gone dead
as the plane throws me into Caden,
the phone flying from my hand,
and skittering away along the aisle.

We hold hands the whole time.
We never let go.
The plane’s lights flash,
scarring red
all across my retinas,
and casting our silhouettes,
all of us in our final acts,
dancing across the walls.
Beside me, I see Clara
and her father, hugging.
The girl up front
is praying.
There isn’t screaming.
Maybe we can’t scream.
Maybe we just won’t.
But we were all wrong
about where we were going,
when we boarded this plane.
We all thought we were
chasing dreams.
But,
really
I think we’re all just
coming home.
We’re seconds away from
the peak.
Seconds
seconds away
from the end.
From the fall.
That infinite fall.
I wonder,
for a brief second,
if we’ll feel the crash,
or if we’ll all just end,
during the drop.
I’ve just decided I don’t want
to know-
and then we feel
it.
We’ve stopped.
The engine’s are
no longer roaring.
We’re not moving.
I gasp,
and it’s the only sound
audible in the silence.
Caden grips my hand,
as tightly as possible,
and then we lurch,
and we’re
f
a
l
l
i
n
g
.
The lights go out,
and we’re all thrown
into utter darkness,
blinded
but for our senses.
We all seem to
r e a c h
out with them
in one moment,
and for a second,
I’m not only
holding Caden’s hand,
but everyone else’s too.
We’re all there,
hand in hand,
and we know each other.
We know the past,
and we’re forgiving each other.
We know the present,
and we’re comforting each other.
We know the future,
and we’re accepting it.
And then,
as soon as it came,
the feeling is
gone,
and Caden turns to me,
as we rattle downwards,
with that roller coaster feeling-
that one when you just started
descending down the first hill-
rising through us.
Our feet leave the floor,
and he pulls me in to him,
while he can
and we kiss,
for only a moment.
And I smile,
even now
even now,
even here,
those fireworks,
and that electricity,
are still as real as ever.
And as we leave our seats,
our thighs straining
against our seat belts,
as we’re pulled up,
our feet dangling,
I whisper,
in the endless drop,
“Love you.”
He smiles through tears,
and I feel like we
are the most
ridiculous
people in the world.
“Always.”
He pulls me in again,
and I feel him against me,
and that little life,
sitting inside me,
and for a moment,
I wonder about it
what it could have been,
what we could have been.
But I realize I already know
we were everything we ever would have been.

Someone is
screaming.
S c r e a m i n g.
It rattles through me,
and I feel for them
I feel their agony,
their pain.
And then it occurs to me.
That someone is me.
As I open my eyes,
the world is trembling.
Everything is red,
aglow with fire,
and searing hurt.
I cry out,
my throat parched,
my lips cracked.
I hear the low murmuring
and buzzing
of people,
and car doors closing.
I look around for a moment,
dazed,
seeing still bodies all around,
before I realize
there’s a pole,
long, heavy, metal, and rusting,
running straight through me
right through my navel
and I can’t feel it.
I can’t feel a thing,
except for my heart.
And that feels like
it’s not going to make it.
Even if I am.
Then I realize,
the pole is piercing
something else, too.
Someone else.
There’s someone else,
lying on top of me.
He doesn’t breathe.
He doesn’t stir.
But I know him-
I know his old life,
and his old fervor-
and I see none of it now.
I try to scream,
but I can’t.
“Caden?”
I cry,
my throat too dry
to do more than whisper.
“Caden, please…”
I try to lift my hand,
to bring him to me again,
but I can’t do more than
sob dryly,
as I see him,
and drink him in.
His hands are still,
one on my numb arm,
the other on the ground
by my side.
His head is limp
heavy on my chest,
his face pressed into me.
He saved my life.
He took the blow.
But now…
“Caden!?”
I try desperately to move,
to shake him awake.
“Please, wake up! Please Caden! Wake up! Caden!
Caden, Caden please… Please…
Don’t do this…
Caden…”
I cry even harder,
before the lights of the police
begin to blind me once more,
and I fade into darkness again,
no longer caring whether I will
live
or die.
Caden is dead.

The child-
it died too,
when the pole went through me.
Now I sit in a cold,
white hospital room,
the bedside table
forever
flooded with flowers
my eyes forever flooded
with tears.
Caden died for me, that night.
I know
he would have said
he’d lived for me too.
But I also think he lived
for so much more.
His funeral
is Saturday.
I’m told today is Thursday.
I have to miss it;
I won’t be recovering,
they say,
until much longer than that.
They’ll have to do much more
than a few days worth
of work
to bring my legs back.
My parents are coming.
I’ve already talked them into
fostering Clara
for just a while too.
We’re it
Clara and I.
The only survivors.
Out of at least thirty
only two.
Including the pilot
and his attendant.
I’m told they were never found.
The nurses say Clara survived
only because of the way
her father had been holding her-
protecting her.
Already, Clara’s like my sister,
though nothing like a daughter.
But she and I still love each other.
After what we’ve been through,
the only other who understands-
being the other of us-
it’s almost impossible not to feel close.
And besides,
Adela was right
Clara couldn’t grow like this,
alone,
without anyone to care for her.
She needs a family,
if only for a little longer.
We’ll be that for her.
And Caden-
Caden is like a fire
that’s gone cold inside me
he only smolders slightly now,
clouding my mind
with memories and pain
but sometimes,
I could swear
I smell him,
I feel him
pine and ocean waves,
heat and passion
love in its most
temporary,
yet prolonged way.
I miss him,
more than anything
I miss him.
But I understand.
I think somewhere,
behind his deep blue eyes,
the same color as the sky
sometime around midnight
on a starry night,
he knew this was
going to happen.
Maybe not that
I would survive,
but most definitely that he would not.
That he would change me,
that he had changed me,
was always all too evident.
I loved him
I still do,
and he loved me
and maybe he still does,
wherever he is.
I just know he’s not gone.
Wherever he is,
he’s never too far away.
Something as
wonderfully
life altering
and amazing
as him could not
just go.
He’s still here.
I know it.
And he’s going to ride
with me,
through the rest of my time here,
on the ground with Clara
and my family.
He’s going to hold my hand,
and smile down on me,
and pull me up
when I fall,
and together we’ll make it
through this
upward tilt
that is life.
And somehow,
I don’t care
if all that comes up,
must come down…
as long as he’s there,
to catch me when I fall.



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