The cost that comes

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 😉


I know you don’t watch me walk away

I know you don’t watch me walk away. I know you don’t press your forehead against the double glass to keep me in your sight. There is no straining for that one last look, no time suspended in the final unblinking stare. You don’t stay with me until I am just another city glow fading in to night.

Tonight I have said I don’t want to do this anymore. I have said it in the way a liar can tell a single truth, sudden and surprising. You are asleep, or nearly asleep when I whisper it across the back of your head.

I don’t want to do this anymore. This – laying in your arms in yet another bed of tangled sheets. This staccato relationship, our little parody where the only authentic act is how you fall asleep straight after we fuck. And I know what comes next. I can feel the separation as keenly as if you have already peeled your body from mine, already slid back in to that second skin, the crisp white shirt and pressed pants, so deftly shucked hours before. I feel you walking out the door, even as your breath warms my breast and your hand remains heavy between my legs. And I decide that tonight I will be the one to go.

I have held on to you so long that my hands clench around you, still. My fingertips try to press in to you one last time, to roll across your skin in a final and heroic effort to prove my identity. But you barely stir, as one finger then the next has to release its grip.

I move to the edge of the bed and I tell you I am leaving. I say other things too, they tumble from a wine-thick tongue, but in time to come I will only ever remember this. How I say I am leaving and you mumble I’ll see you soon, and how with your eyes still closed you miss the way I shake my head, no.

I know you don’t get up after I close the door behind me. I know you don’t move to the window to watch me tremble into the night. You are not looking down to see me stumble through cracks of concrete in the heels you removed so carefully over dinner, and you don’t watch as I recede to a grey as cobbled as the street below. With no neon flash of text to say goodnight, no vibrating phone to accompany me home, I know you are already sound asleep.

It is my 35th birthday and I will not cry. One wobbly foot in front of the other on this midnight street, I walk away.

Rock Bublitz & Jo Piechota at body, remember

Image by Joanne Piechota

Author’s update – November 2012: Jo recently created a visual essay inspired by the above piece; for more information on I know you don’t watch me walk away (imagined) click here.