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 hate Italian families.
When you see them in a group they’re always laughing and eating,
kissing and hugging and touching each other as if they really mean
it and they don’t mind being close.
Don’t they know that they’re not supposed to behave like that?
In the best of WASP families you never touch anything but a cheek
with another cheek.
You have children but they leave the house
To a WASP there can be no answer as
nothing is written down.
It turns out your family will never resemble an Italian family.
Wasps require large houses because everyone needs a greater than normal
amount of space in which to sequester themselves from their
So if they can afford it they move into mansions and most of the
rooms are left empty.
Certainly on holidays there is one long table but it’s like
Covid before Covid.
I’m trying to learn how to be Italian.
I’m a genetic aberration.
I used to have a friend in the mafia who definitely was Italian.
He used to take me to dinner at the Italian club and during the meal
the table would shimmer and shake according to who was shooting what
weapon at the gun range on the floor below.
Having dinner with Vincent made me feel weirdly protected but
apprehensive . Like having indigestion before you even thought
about eating. I asked him to adopt me but that wasn’t what he had
I found out a year ago that Vincent had died. I hate that.
People that you keep thinking of for years
and years and then suddenly you hear that you shouldn’t
have been thinking about them because
they were dead.
“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, we bury the upper crust!”
Motto from a WASP funeral company
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.
Remember the children’s game “gotcha last”? In our family we played it for hours. It actually drove our mother crazy but we couldn’t help ourselves. The game would stop for hours and then there would be a little subtle finger touch during the dinner hour that one of us would feel all too late and know we had been tagged and we were it.
Now it’s become a reality. Chances are, if someone is infected with the virus and comes within 6 feet of someone else, and then they happen to sneeze, another person will catch it. If we go to the gym and we use hand sanitizer but happen to miss one tiny spot and wipe our noses without thinking, boom, we have it.
This isn’t an exaggeration. No one in America likes to be told what to do. Everyone I know in my group of friends has claustrophobia.Everyone I know has abandonment tendencies and hates to be alone. Everyone I know thinks the idea of being told to stay home and in their house and to avoid social interaction is akin to being incarcerated.
Well, guess what? If we don’t stay home and we don’t keep our families at home we are jeopardizing our freedom to live. Yes, we are jeopardizing our right to stay alive. Yes, we are jeopardizing the right of all of our neighbors to stay alive and be safe and healthy.
It’s really time to realize that this is no joke. We need to take care of our country. We need to look after our elderly population and make sure everyone is taken care of. Staying home is not such a bad thing and it’s what we all should be doing right now.
I walk around my house and see how lucky I am because my house is filled with books many of which I have never read. Now I can read them.Now I can go in my garden and sit and reflect on a single camellia or the tenacity of an ant.
I am so grateful for the texts from my family which happen almost daily and the phone calls from my friends. They warm my heart and make me feel less alone than I’ve felt in years. Now is the time for us to reach out through our wonderful technology and communicate with our children and our grandchildren and our friends and our family and tell them we love them. Finally, technology is a good thing.
Now is not the time to go out to restaurants and cafés and parties and risk catching the virus and then spreading it to other people who may not be strong enough to survive it.
Now is the time to respect our medical personnel who risk so much to take care of us. Now is the time to guard our families by realizing that staying at home is actually a wonderful thing to be doing.
Consider our future and the future of our world and the safety of our population and make a decision to do your part in preventing the spread of this virus. Stay home. Read a book. Eat lightly. Take a walk. Pet your dog. Play a game with your kids. Delight in the sunrise and meditate longer. Take a bath. Practice deep breathing. Look at your scrapbooks. Get in touch with everyone you love and tell them you love them.
Do the best you can to stay safe and healthy and carry the world in your hands as if it’s a precious breath you would like to share with everyone around you. Just think, if everyone did this we would be safe.
I feel like we’re playing musical chairs in the world.
I am not good at that game.
Where can we go?
What can we do?
Where is it safe?
When I was a kid people used to scream
at me because I would never leave my chair.
If I did it was to slither
over to the next chair
before the music even thought about stopping.
In my house there are many chairs.
There are many photos.
I like to stop
and sit on the chair that looks directly into the photo
of my family surrounding me.
That’s all I see
That’s all I pray for.