He packed his suitcase and kissed his kids good-bye
He waited his whole damn life to take that flight
And as the plane crashed down he thought
"Well, isn't this nice"
And Isn't this ironic ... don't you think?
--- Ironic, Alanis Morissette
I'm not sure exactly what was going on in my head last night and maybe I don't even want to know, but I would really appreciate it if my subconscious would keep its little worries to itself. I do not need to wake up in the dark with a whimper in my throat and spend the next fifteen minutes curled up under the covers, panting, with my heart hammering away in my chest and feeling like my life just flashed before my eyes because of a dream.
That's what I have Ra for.
As near as I can figure it I started having a dream sometime around 4:00 AM this morning. With all the talk of possible travel that's been flying about for the last week I guess my unconscious picked up on it and used to for dream fodder. I don't recall all the specifics, but I do remember the key things... I was part of a large group of people flying, something on the order of six to eight people. We all knew one another, although I'm not sure entirely how -- I think we may have been coworkers. We'd known we were going to a particular destination but had forgotten to order our tickets ahead of time, so as we stood in line at the ticket counter with our bags we were trying to convince the counter agent to give us a sort of "group discount." I don't remember if it worked or not, but eventually a sky cap took all of our luggage, tagged it up and sent it on its way. I remember the airline very well, it was American Airlines, a company I've only flown with once (for my trip to Toronto last December).
The next part that I remember is being on the plane. We were flying over some major city or another. I had the window seat and was looking out over it as we flew over, commenting on it to the person in the seat immediately adjacent to mine. I believe at this point the dream had changed into a nightmare, I just didn't know it yet. We were flying along, slowly banking for a turn, letting me get a pretty good view of the cityscape below, even though it was easily many thousands of feet under me. I was still talking to the person next to me, who I believe was my coworker Bob. Bob is accompanying me on a work-related trip to Southern California sometime in May, and has been terrified to fly since even before September 11, 2001. Maybe I got a whiff of his fear and that's how I ended up with this dream, I don't know, but it turned pretty dark right then. As I was commenting on the city below the plane banked sharply, so that the wings we almost entirely vertical. Shouts of surprise were all around me in the cabin, and then those shouts turned to terrified screams as the nose of the plane plunged downward. The plane seemed to right itself somewhat, but that didn't help the feeling of falling helplessly out of control. I liken it to the sensation you get in the pit of your stomach when you go over the top of a roller coaster and gravity just seems to drop away from you as you plummet towards the bottom. After the plane straightened out somewhat we were still aimed towards the ground, and that's when the sound of the engines disappeared. Utterly gone, you couldn't hear them at all -- they'd stopped, or "flamed out", or whatever term you use for a jet engine that's essentially stalled. And of course we were still moving forward, but without the thrust it quickly became a much more rapid descent straight down. We were spiraling in towards the city, and I remember very clearly saying "Oh Jesus. I'm sorry Bob, it looks like you were right."
That's when I woke up gasping. I took a little while to calm myself, and then rolled over to look at the alarm clock. It read 4:47, as near as I could tell without my glasses on. For another fifteen to twenty minutes I couldn't get back to sleep, my heart was thudding like a lead balloon in my chest and I couldn't get my breathing back to normal. I think what unnerves me the most is that while yes, I was a little afraid to die in that dream... it wasn't my biggest concern. Sure, I didn't want to end things like that, but I recognize that when I get on a plane I'm giving up any iota of control over my life that I might have had up until that point. It used to bother me, but these days I'm pretty accepting of it. I just pass a lot of my time sleeping, because then I'm not aware enough to worry about every little detail that's surrounding me, and I don't care if the kid in the row ahead of me is bawling his head off and screaming that he wants a cookie. The fact that most flights these days have headphones readily available makes achieving sleep an even easier thing... I just plug in, find the ground control communications station (if I'm lucky enough to have a pilot who's piping that in) or the classical music station and then tuck in under a blanket for a snooze.
No, the overwhelming emotion I felt was sadness. I was filled with regret for things hadn't gone better, that I hadn't done more with my life, for opportunities I wouldn't get to take. I felt sorry that I was going to leave people behind. So I was sad. Scared some, yes, but mostly sad.
What does that say about me, I wonder?