Reading “Vol de Nuit”
Vol de Nuit
“This is your captain speaking” I hear as I look around my seat and curiously push the dimly lit buttons with the diagrams on them of what I may want to do for the next 10 hours.
I love the deep voice of the captain especially when he’s British: so reassuring and yet sexy as if any minute he’s going to offer me a cocktail and anything else I might want.
“Ladies and gentlemen” he says “our flight will go over Newfoundland tonight. We expect no delay in our landing at London Heathrow and it is our hope that you will enjoy your flight asleep or awake.Thank you for flying with us.”
I am longing to hear that captain’s voice again.
I want to be in the capsule of transportation.
I want a lady with make up on and coiffed hair to offer me a blanket and a billet-doux.
I long to be taken across the Atlantic, flying high through the clouds while someone else is in charge.
Maybe I’ll fly to Charles de Gaulle and exit through one of the tube escalators up and escalator down into the customs area where I will be met by a chauffeur who will take me to a five-star Hotel in Paris where I will acquire several new outfits and a chauffeur.
At night when I can’t sleep I think of all those opportunities. My daughter kept saying to me, “Mom!Go live in France for a while. They’ll understand you there.”
I know it’s too late and that’s OK but I still love to imagine the sound of that voice “Good evening ladies and gentlemen!Welcome to flight 27 from San Francisco to wherever your heart desires.”
I am wearing my travel clothes so I will look perfectly chic when we land.
I’ve been wearing them for five months.
I’ll never stop dreaming just as I’ve never stopped breathing so if I never stop breathing I can’t guarantee I won’t in-jest something that could easily kill me.
So that’s why I’m happy I’m a good imaginer.
I always travel light and rarely breathe.
I feel lust when It should be dust
I feel lust when I should feel like dust,
too much testosterone according to my
Geriatrician. I can’t help myself.
Fireman make my mouth water.
I put on rubber gloves,
a mask, a lab coat, and go to Brice’s house for
a drink last Friday
(we’ve been slow dancing electronically).
Like all women I want to talk
before sex and be a little drunk and be
kissed with intention to
paralyze but only for seven minutes or I get
I just decide I am ready to tell him because
now I am bored with this dance after 50 years,
too many partners to remember identifying marks
Listen, I say, here’s what I want.
I look at him in his old Patagonia, ripped at the hem and spotted,
hair half brown half gray stuffed under a Patriots cap,
face unshaven, nylon turtleneck blued into gray, open mouth
revealing years of ground out rage and he’s thinking,
What the hell now? So I
say I want to have dinner with someone every night.
I want a body in the bed next to me that doesn’t move or make
I want someone to have my back.
I want you to figure out what we are going to do about dinner.
I want the smell of soap and skin and silk and the feel of hips and maybe
a gun in the house,
a stick shift car and a big dog, Trivial Pursuit 80’s version,
I want you to figure out what I want and then give it to me when I want it not when you do and I want
And then he says I don’t want to have dinner every night.
In honor of Memorial Day I choose the Good Humor: a treat on a wooden stick, vanilla ice cream covered in thin dark chocolate, covered in white shiny paper that was hermetically sealed over it. Teeth were the utensil most often used to open it up!
The good humor arrived in the truck driven by the Good Humor man. The truck had a refrigerator on the back which could be accessed from both sides by opening a door with a stainless steel handle. Sometimes, when I was last in line, I would stand on the stone wall so I could see deep inside the truck. There were pale cardboard boxes in there piled to the brim of the truck like shoe boxes or small coffins but unmarked.
The arrival of the good humor man was akin to the arrival of Santa Claus. In our house there were no treats so ice cream on a stick was a major event.
I don’t know why I seemed to be the only sibling that was able to buy two Good Humors, but I can only assume it was because I have always been a saver.
The good humor man came between three and four on Sunday afternoons but only in the summer months and announced his arrival with a clanging of a sweet sounding bell which reverberated through the neighborhood and into the ears of kids longing for ice cream. The good humor man did not always have a good humor and often seemed slightly frightening to us kids.
We would save our allowances until we could afford to buy at least two so that we could put the one that we didn’t eat right away into the big refrigerator in the back of our garage with our name on it.
From the time I was a little kid my favorite toy was a tiny red cash register that could accept nickels, dimes and quarters and wouldn’t open until you had saved $10. I loved that piggy bank. As a matter fact I think I would still be using it if I knew where it was. It was incredibly gratifying to put in that last coin and see the cash drawer spring open and make the noise “Cha Ching !”
Gratifying, but also somehow sad and disappointing. You had achieved your goal now what would you do with it? Probably most kids wouldn’t really even think like this but I wasn’t looking for happiness, I was looking for safety.
In the 50s families were flush with falsehood: Betty Crocker, Aunt Jemima, Birdseye, Henry Ford, Bass Weejuns and Chryslers. There was a long line of things that people wanted to acquire in order to feel that they didn’t need to eat too many good humors.
Women wore lipstick called “Cherries in the Snow” bought in the Five and Dime and men wore suits and took the train to work and smoked. Everybody smoked. They smoked in the car around the children. They smoked in their office. They smoked in their bathrooms with the windows open. And they smoked late at night while they gazed at the moon and wondered why they were feeling so empty.
You can’t go to war and kill people and then come back home and be happy. It doesn’t matter what people say about defending your country, once you’ve dropped a bomb on a village or shot a man in the chest as he’s coming at you , you can’t ever forget what it felt like. You have those moments when you remember what you did and even though you had to do it it never really sits right with you.
People think soldiers do it out of loyalty to their country and maybe that’s why they do it in the beginning. I don’t think you can stop thinking about war just because the war may be over. In the 1950s the war was over and people were celebrating by buying things and having children.
We were winners. We had won. Everyone knows that once you win a prize you don’t care about the prize after a while. It becomes meaningless and you even forget where or what it was but you keep buying.
On this memorial day I would like to remember the young boys and girls who started out with innocence in their hearts and grew up and went to war believing they were doing the right thing. I would like to remember what they lost by doing this. Some came home with seriously damaged bodies and some came home with seriously damaged minds. Some were addicted to drugs and some became homeless living on the streets with nowhere to go and no one to be with.
Once the war was over and they were sent home there was no follow up or real responsibility on the part of this country to take care of people. None of the vehicles set up to do this really took care of the problem.
It’s been said before. War is not necessary.
Now we are in the midst of a pandemic yet each country takes care of it in their own way. The news reports the number of cases worldwide and how many people have died in each country every day. It’s as if we are watching a horse race and placing bets. Each country owns a different horse and hopes their horse will win. The price will be monumental. Still we don’t work together.
I read the other day that people spend more money on lottery tickets than they do on taking themselves out for dinner, to the movies, beach, a play, an amusement park. It made me really sad to read this. Instead of enjoying life each day, people spend money on the tiny possibility they will win money and believe that winning money will make them overjoyed to be alive. Winning money will take away the pain.
So I’m coming to the end here. On this memorial day I would like to focus on our children and our grandchildren and think about how we can make their lives happy and make them see and feel and understand what it is that happiness is.
I don’t think it’s buying things, and I don’t think it’s going to war and killing people, I don’t think it’s winning a lottery ticket, I don’t think it’s buying a car,I don’t think it’s winning and I don’t think it’s losing.
I think it is having the ability to accomplish a small task for yourself and then be proud.
I think it’s setting a reasonable goal and accomplishing it. I think it is being a kind and loving person and a generous one. I think it is valuing the qualities that make a good citizen in the world: compassion, generosity, and the practice of non-violence.
I am an optimist. I think we have a chance to recognize this now when we’re on the brink of global extinction.Everyone feels like they’re not safe. Everyone feels disconnected. I just keep thinking about the movie, “ET”. If we could all just reach out our fingers and touch someone else and make them feel safe then maybe we would feel safe too. I don’t really think there’s another solution.
Survival instructions when you are the last human left
crumble twigs on bare floor before waking and walking.
Freeze some flowers the night before then
turn a rose inside out and label the petals
in order to remember what they said.
If you find a coyote in your house ask
what she needs from outside and tell the
hairless goat to stay in the closet for a while.
There might be a vulture on your roof so
watch it when you go out.
(Nothing by mouth
not even cacti)
If Georgia O’Keefe steps through a window
don’t act surprised or needy just have a
conversation about stillness or sex or tools.
The world will be pale but don’t be enticed to
touch the green as then it, too, will die.
It is your job to keep noting:
Just sit. Not wait.
Is it too late to be Nancy Drew now that it’s hard for me to get up in the morning and one knee hurts so badly but it does stop about seven minutes later? Is it too late to be Nancy Drew now that I forget things and my hair has turned gray and sometimes I look in the mirror and I don’t recognize myself? Is it too late to be Cherry Ames, Dude Ranch Nurse , solving mysteries that no one else could solve because she was smart and beautiful and accomplished. (Remember Cherry was not a doctor but the nurse at the ranch).
I want to be that woman who gets dressed in a three-piece suit with spiky heels and stalks across the courtroom floor and wins the case against the giant corporation making millions of dollars for her firm and saving millions of employees their jobs. Is it too late for that? I don’t know why I didn’t think that I could do that but my parents never read one report card and only looked at the beauty in my face and the lilt in my voice and the trail of suitors following me.
I had a longing deep inside of me like a drill bit that never stopped whirling and now I see the women getting in cars going to work with a confident twitch of their hips and I want to be them. I want to be successful and get a big paycheck and have a room full of men hang on my every word. I want to be brilliant and knowledgeable and respected and powerful and I want to have done it all myself with my big beautiful brain and I don’t want anyone to get in my way and I don’t want someone to marry me and make it happen. I will want this until the day I die.
“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul – and sings the tunes without the words – and never stops at all.” Emily Dickinson
My Daughter has been dead for nearly three years and I haven’t heard a word from her until yesterday, that is. You may think that sounds weird, but I was a big believer in communication with the dead.
Before she died, I believed there were all sorts of ghosts, spirits and parents out there who could and did communicate a lot! For the life of me I couldn’t get my Mom out of my head but now I like to hear her. Right after Tina died, I felt her near me, and I felt how worried she was to leave me. She could not get into her orbit and it was up to me to pray for her and to let her go which I did.
Dragon flies were plentiful around the bench she had last sat on in my garden and they stayed for days in the summer sun, something they never do. Reluctantly. They were Tina’s symbol.
She died a painful and terrible death and had quite a few minutes to struggle, to have changed her mind, to face the fact that it was too late, and to realize she would never see anyone here on earth again. I think she died because she didn’t see a way to happiness like many others who choose suicide. I think she had no idea what it would be like.
So, then I lost her and though the silence seemed right in the beginning, after a while it seemed wrong and bitter and empty and very unfair. It was a loud silence as if she had gone so far away that there was no trail to finding her and worse, she had lost the trail back to me.
I would chidingly talk to her photo when passing it in the hallway saying good morning and good night and ask why she was not in touch. I would try very hard to understand what her eyes were telling me. I would think about our time together when she was a child and what she was like and what we did together.
I came to know some of her friends better than I ever had when they were young. I reconnected with a babysitter who had been with us one summer. My way of healing was to keep listening to stories about my daughter and to keep on searching for understanding as to why she had ended out where she did.
I read through all her emails to me over the years both angry and loving. I looked at her artwork. I opened her trunk of childhood and removed dresses, coats, shoes and hats, holding each one in my hands, often pressing it to my face and always asking for a sign that she knew I was waiting to hear from her. That she knew I missed her.
I started to go to church but found many lacking. The expression on the faces of ministers often made me wonder what their diet was composed of. I never felt at home there and hated being greeted by strangers wanting to hug you.
Finally, I went to the church next door where Father Mike, my friend, was the priest. In the cavernous space filled sparsely with young and old, I found some serenity and I remembered how praying had helped me not be afraid of the dark as a kid. I began to pray. At first, it only took a minute before I went to sleep but as time went on there were so many people needing help.
You won’t understand this unless you have lost someone you love very much. Its just what people in mourning do.
Then one day everything changed. I was in the living room looking intently at a photograph of Tina and wishing once again I felt in touch with her. I said it out loud several times. I think I was beginning to cry.
Then my cell phone rang. It was my two-year-old granddaughter Rosemary, wanting to FaceTime with me. Rosemary was born one month after Tina died and my daughter and I think a part of Tina is in her. Rosemary wanted to talk about unicorns. Unicorns were Tina’s spirit animal.
I know I am in touch now and I got my sign