It is easy to see the beginnings of things, and harder to see the ends.
More curious than endings however, are those moments you stand on the liminal, where beginnings and endings might be the very same thing. I am never more aware of this threshold than when I am travelling on a plane. Suspended for a time somewhere between coming and going. When I fly I often wonder – am I on my way now? Or is this just another leaving?
It is a question I can no better answer at 30,000 feet than I can with my feet on the ground.
There is a moment in any flight I have taken, perhaps 15 minutes in, when plastic stops rattling, when trays come down, touch the knees of tall men, and certain passengers begin the loop from seat to bathroom and back again, shifting from foot to foot as they wait for narrow doors to fold open, for strangers to press past. This moment, preceded by a telltale ding, seems to panic some, send them scrambling, but for me it is when I am most likely to pull up some simmering memory, searching through my mental albums as if on a phone, to find the one picture I know I should delete. Sticky inflight magazines are idly read, people scan through last year’s movies on their too-small screens, but I am back in his arms, or stumbling away on that rainy night, or knocking at his door for the very first time. Beginnings and endings coming to me all at once. On my way. Or just another leaving.
There is no liminal like the place you stand with a treacherous lover.
I read an article once, about men who cry on planes. About heightened emotions and hormones, and how Virgin Atlantic now puts warnings on inflight movies that might make you sob. I thought about him at the time. Seem to think about him on any flight I take. I suppose unfinished business melds with the ambiguity I feel whenever I’m going somewhere. I learned from an early age, as an exchange student who made choices too soon, that you can never go! without also leaving. Since then, I have used plane trips, those four hours or twelve or twenty-four in the air, to reconcile the cost that comes with beginnings. All the things and people you leave behind. I’ve dripped salty tears into plastic wine glasses, disintegrated thin tissues against my running nose. Cried more than any man watching Toy Story 3, or that film about a dog who dies (they always die). I’ve scribbled notes to myself, trying to keep my elbows in, and been grateful when the stranger beside me has fallen asleep. I did this not two weeks ago, in fact.
When I could see my next beginning stretched out. Beckoning. And the ending wound tight around the gesture. So entwined, that from seat 14c, I could not separate the two.
I’m taking a Creative Non-Fiction class at Uni this year. A working backwards of how I usually write, where I’m used to spinning real life into fairy tales. It has been an interesting exercise thus far. The task last week, taking that famous first line from Didion, should have been easy, obsessed as I am with endings. But there’s something about writing with yourself at the centre. Some pause between me and the keys. Perhaps I have been hiding behind my fiction for too long 😉