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Halfway There

People. Droves of them, hustling off to their appointed gates with seventeen suitcases strapped to themselves like pack mules. All scowling, furrowing their brows. Hoping to get to where they want to go, and with all seventeen suitcases they came with. Me? I only had two bags, but one of them was large enough to be a body bag. Beside me was my cousin, a tall 16-year old, the jock type, with broad shoulders and pimple covered cheeks. He, of course, got stuck carrying my oversized bag.

As we made our way past the ticket counter the automatic doors whooshed open, nearly sweeping us away in a blast of icy air. It was December in Vermont, which means one thing: cold. The kind of cold that hurt the skin, just breathing made people cough. As we zigged and zagged our way through the seething maze of bodies, we kept looking down at the flight information in my hands. “Gate B-17, I’m sure of it” I said, none too convincingly apparently, for he kept reading aloud the gates and their destinations.

We reached a fairly quiet section of the airport, and all the sounds became subdued. It had the feel of a library to it: old, peaceful, and undisturbed. “Is that our gate?” I asked. He looked up at the monitor and said, “Flight 182 to Pittsburgh, I think that’s us.” We stepped up to the woman behind the counter and handed her our tickets. She looked up at us, crows’ feet at the edges of her eyes, soft blond hair, and slightly delicate hands, a very attractive middle-aged woman. She had a soft voice, meek and unassuming. “Right this way please,” she said. We followed her down the steep incline to the plane. The closer we got the louder the noise became, threatening to deafen us. I could see the pilots huddled over the glowing panels in the cockpit, pressing a button here, turning a knob there, and making me feel secure just by looking busy.

We stepped into the cabin and the sound became suddenly muffled, like someone threw a wool blanket over us. As we sidestepped down the aisle, I kept glancing over my shoulder into the cockpit, maybe out of curiosity as to what all the flashing buttons did, or maybe to continually remind myself that the pilots knew what they were doing. I sat down and slid over to the window seat, leaving my unlucky cousin stuck in the middle. I buckled the cold silver seat belt around my waste and sat back to watch interesting people pass by my seat. I met their stares with stares of my own. What did I care? I was never going to see these people again. Everyone shuffled in place, waiting for those ahead in the aisle to sit down. When everyone was seated and the overhead bins were crammed with bags the plane hummed to life. I watched as the workers beneath the plane made last minute checks and tossed, literally tossed, the last few bags onto the conveyer belt.

After the workers had scattered, much like ants in the rain, the plane slid slowly onto the runway. The pilot came on the intercom and said we were cleared for take off. I looked out the window in anticipation as we began to pick up speed, starting at a slow rumble and gradually increasing to a blurred crescendo. The plane lurched as we lifted off the ground. Off the ground! I still get a rush whenever I realize that we are actually flying, faster and higher than any bird.

I closed my eyes and felt a slight pressure on my chest as we rose up to an acceptable height. When I opened them the whole state was spread out before me, a rolling blanket of white. In some places trees poked through, adding a little color to the drab landscape, but failing miserably because they just added brown and a bit of green.

As we continued to climb, details became fuzzy and I was greeted with a new sight. We had arisen above the level of the clouds, and it made my eyes widen. Walls of billowing clouds, constantly changing, blanketing and swirling, hiding the whole earth inside their cool grasp.

It seemed strangely familiar, a white rolling landscape, with bits of brown and green poking through where the clouds had thinned. I realized that I had seen something old in a new light. All that snow had seemed so ugly and monotonous, and yet here I was looking at nearly the exact same thing, and I found it beautiful. I was still thinking as the plane began to descend, circling and falling like one of the snowflakes that I so abhorred. My contemplations were interrupted as the pilot came on the intercom and welcomed us to Pittsburgh. I was glad to be on solid ground again, but I enjoyed every second in the air. Our destination was on the opposite side of the country. We were only halfway there.

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