Mimicking David Sedaris’s Essay: Journey into Night
The flight from Charles De Gaulle to JFK takes the same time as New York to LA, but the international destination alters the environment of the plane. With the time difference, the flight takes a full night to get to Paris, but the actual duration is about 5 hours. The airline tries to mimic a full night by serving dinner, dimming the lights and four hours later serving breakfast, as if the time between was a full night of rest.
David, not yet comfortable in Business Elite, watches as people in lesser class seats cautiously file back to their seats. He thinks of their disappointment when they see his normal appearance after expecting someone greater filling a better seat. He thinks of how he was only rewarded this seat for a book tour in New York. He is seated next to a French man, as he drifts into sleep after popping some pill.
The plane departs and the seat belt sign dims. Passengers slowly move about the cabin. Sporting loose pajama like clothing, and methodically lining up at the bathroom with toothbrushes and face wipes. Everyone wades in a similar place, a limbo of sorts. They await for air that smells different or similar. Some, are filled with anticipation of a new adventure. Others groan with exhaust from habitual business. Some more marinate in their past travels as they return to familiarity.
Not long after take off a flight attendant approaches, addresses David as Mr. Sedaris and asks, “There is a man that is causing some other passengers to complain, would you mind if he switched seats? I am sorry for the inconvenience.” David responds “Is he a kid?” When the flight attendant responds with a no, David asks “Is he drunk?” He concludes that it would not matter but her vague description caused him to be curious. She explains that his mother recently passed and people are irritated with his crying. David says, “They are irritated by his crying?”
“Yes sir, that is all” she responds.
David agrees and she disappears to the back of the plane. Moments later the man appears. His eyes red, and head most likely aching form the crying. His face was rough, with strong features and big hands. A man who could casually pull off a hat, and still come off as humble and well mannered. The flight attendant quietly thanks David and returns to her usual duties.
David naturally reflects on his mother’s funeral, while he thinks of this grieving man’s condition. He recalls the heat of North Carolina, and some heavy hearted laughs with his sister. He wonders if he should offer some sort of condolences but concludes that the man wants to be left alone and diverts his attention to the extra amenities of Business Elite. Tuning into his private screen, and mashing the stiff buttons to find the most comfortable position. Dinner arrives and David’s new seat-mate refuses his meal. Though, he assumes the man is envious when he tears the foil off his meal. The man begins to cry again, not in a distracting way, but with a steady stream of tears. David is a little perplexed by the magnitude of grief. A good amount of time must have passed since he received the news. He imagines there must be some regret added to this man’s grief. He pictures an old woman, on her deathbed, pleading for her son to visit, but the distractions of the present got the best of him and he couldn’t make the time. Now she rests in a morgue, pumped with formaldehyde, eyes glued shut, make-up smeared on her face to give it a less dead look. He does feel sorry for this man and begins to reflect on another funeral experience. In high school a girl died of Leukemia. He remembers the unvalidated grief he had until another classmate expressed the same emotional turmoil.
The serious energy and ignorance to the feasible pleasures of Business Elite urges David to decline whipped cream and a second serving. While the plane effortlessly bolts to New York, David could not help but to succumb to his reflections of past grief. His empathy and the lack of distraction peeled away at his normal emotional guards. Slowly past experiences crept out of the deep grooves in his mind, like gremlins crawling out a crevasse into his subconscious. His nose stung and the seams that held his tears inside slowly began to unzip. For a brief moment, not too long so the gravity of this man’s grief did not go unvalidated, they were two men crying quietly soaking in solitude.