This story was originally written for Stranger Stories, RI’s ‘flight’ theme. Then the pandemic happened.
I felt some apprehension as we lifted off in the two-seater. But, as I have obnoxiously told others wary of flight, it is more statistically probable to die in a car crash than hurtle into oblivion on a plane. So up we went.
The pilot was my best friend’s new partner, and he had already exhibited abusive tendencies. He knew I was wary of him. And, in his eyes, I was a threat to their relationship. My friend, who I will call B, wanted us to try to make amends or at least learn to tolerate each other. We both begrudgingly agreed to spend a few days together with her in New York.
I gazed at the 360 degree view of clouds, greenery and blue blending around me. Supplemented with a rush of adrenaline, the lushness of it all made up for the bad company.
As we descended, he was awfully quiet.
“Good thing we had a second engine,” he said as we hit the ground. “The first one completely lost power. That’s never happened before…I didn’t want you to panic while we were in flight so I didn’t say anything.” In hindsight, I had noticed his face drain of color, his sneer demeanor shifting.
Thank — and I can not express this enough — fucking god my last moments were not with him!
We bickered, somewhat amusingly, throughout the trip while my friend mediated. (Frankly, we both enjoyed arguing.) And we released the pent up energy, in a surprising twist, the ascension — the climax if you will — when, later that night, we all wound up in bed together. Molly is a hell of a drug. But it didn’t fix things.
It was the beginning of the end for me and Bee, but I’m grateful for the time I spent with her. As cliché as it sounds, she influenced me toward the person I am today, the person who I have eventually grown to love. We first met during the beginning of my sophomore year of college, when our dormitory floor got cookies together. She was vegan and I was intrigued. As a former steak lover, I had never met one of those before. But she was convincing and I ultimately gave up animal flesh not long after. She introduced me to new clothing styles, music, foods, the fluidity of sexuality, feminism.
After the New York City trip, we maintained our friendship for a while. But it was an inverse relationship: as she became closer with her new partner, our relationship became more strained. One night, we were out at a very innocent party that he didn’t approve of. He called non-stop, claiming to hear “suggestive” male voices. It was painful and infuriating to see her fall into his grip, a grip I am all too familiar with. The next morning I woke up to him ranting, complaining about me on the phone to her and she didn’t defend me.
That may have been the last time I saw her. And the last time we spoke, we didn’t yell, or even argue really. But we both somehow knew the friendship was dead. We didn’t even have to explicitly voice it.
Now I check her social media from time to time. She probably checks mine too. It seems like they broke up several months ago, so these memories are surfacing again. She moved quickly into another relationship (as she always has) and I’m happy for her.
As our lives disentangled, like a boondoggle, our trajectories shot in separate directions over the years. I’ve changed irreversibly, dramatically, and I doubt we share as much common ground as we once did.
Like a plane with two engines, our friendship never crashed and burned. And while the lack of closure creates a lingering uneasiness, the situation is not sour anymore. It’s not “for better”, or “for worse.” It just is.