Love pays attention when you say you’re feeling nervous about 20 hours in the air and a tight layover.
Love does not diminish your concerns or try to cheer you up.
Love asks if you’d like him to come to the airport. A taxi and a bus ride to Haneda and then the return trip for him at ten o’clock at night. You say no. “It’s too much, love.” The truth is that you want love’s company in the back seat of that dark taxi.
Love lifts your suitcase, which already weighs 19 kilos, into the trunk.
Love reaches for your hand.
Love stands with you in line at the airport, holds your coat while you check in, reminds you to take out your residency card.
Love looks back after he’s left you at Security.
Love looks back and waves even though love doesn’t normally look back.
Love still surprises you.
The man in the black Guns N’Roses shirt
and ball cap in the seat across the aisle
does not enjoy flying. He does not chat
with his partner seated near the window
or leaf through the inflight magazine. He
does not use the entertainment system.
He glances at his watch and breathes deeply.
He sits straight and stares ahead at nothing
in particular. When even that is
too much, he plays a game on his smartphone.
We’re ninety minutes into a two and
a half hour flight. He tucks his phone away
in the blue leather pocket of the seat
in front of him and stares ahead again.
I want to say, “You’re doing great.” I want
to say, “I know just how you feel.” I don’t.
I suspect the only thing that’s worse than
being a forty year old man afraid
of flying is to have a stranger call
attention to it. So he sits and he
stares straight ahead. I send him empathy
and encouragement like silent little
And I take out my pink moleskin and write
this poem for all the courageous ones
who are afraid to fly but fly anyway.