The Shortest Flight

I was flying home after attending my best friend's funeral. It had happened suddenly. She was there one minute and gone the next. The trip home had been a busy one. There was the funeral itself and her apartment had to be gone through, her things sorted: things for family, things for friends, things to donate. Secrets to keep, secrets to share—the whole of a life, even a fairly young one, takes enormous effort to dissect and to organize but being busy was good. In her place, dealing with her things, I could put off dealing with the absence of her. But on the plane there would be nothing to do. It would be a vast chasm of time just me and my grief alone in a public space. I dreaded the idea of having to make small talk to a stranger but dreaded too the idea of sitting alone in silence for five hours except for the occasional murmur of "water, please." Would I be able to hold back my tears? If I couldn't what would the other passengers make of me?

It was a full flight on a low-cost carrier without assigned seats and when I boarded the only seat available was next to two teenage boys—a dismal prospect in the best of times. Having no other choice I sat next to the two people I thought I'd have the least in common with on the plane and found in them my hope restored. They were well-dressed, wearing suits and loosening their ties. They were good-looking, even by adolescent standards, cool and yet unguarded without a trace of cynicism. They were at once every bit the modern teenager with their i-Pods and PSP's but with a refreshing and genuine wholesomeness I'd thought lost in our time especially in an urban landscape.

They were on their first flight ever. It was the first time they'd ever left their city and their wonder and excitement at passing over the Rocky Mountains, and the anticipation of their first ever horse ride was contagious. We played Uno and they told me of their girlfriends, their teachers—the strict ones, the nice ones. They told me of their families, of their dreams. They showed me pictures from prom on the new video i-Pod. They did nothing more or less extraordinary that day than be themselves; but in doing so they lifted the spirits of a complete stranger.

Submitted by Anonymous


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