A woman reads a news article about the fatal crash of the plane she is about to board.
| The lifecycle of a raindrop begins when it falls from the clouds and lands at the top of the glass. It pauses for a moment, taking in its situation before gently trickling down the window. Never does it travel in a straight line, but instead it moves left and right, taking in every inch of its journey as if knowing that itâs its last. Other droplets trickle with it, each on their own journey, some overlapping others. Finally it reaches the bottom of the window frame and it stops. With one last look at the world, it merges with the concrete below the window and so ends its existence.
It seems so simple, to be born and then cease in such a short space of time. Does the raindrop feel blessed to be given a chance to have just those few minutes of life? Is it grateful? Would it give anything to exist just a little bit longer? I want to trade places with that raindrop, to give it the life that I have thus far wasted. Maybe it could do better than me.
More raindrops fall down the large bay window and I trace some of them with my index finger, leaving my own trail in the condensation. Each time a raindrop reaches the bottom of the window Iâm forced to look upon the green and white colours before me that cause my stomach to knot and a lump to form in my throat. I swallow it down and take deep breaths. Everyone has disembarked now. I look behind me and many have already started queuing, eager to get settled into their cramped seat with little to no leg room, to endure the seven-hour journey to whatever awaits them on the other side of the Atlantic.
Did I mention that I hate flying?
There is no root of my fear, perhaps it simply stems for my need to keep my feet on the ground. I have been on planes many times before, each journey more excruciating than the last. A coffin with wings, my mother used to call them.
The queue is getting longer but I have no desire to join it. Iâm more than happy to be the last one to board, which is almost as good as being the first, in my opinion. Mostly everyone has taken their seats and put their luggage in the overhead bins. The only downside, I suppose, is that your carry-on luggage could end up several rows away from your seat due to the greediness of the other passengers. OK then, maybe being the first to board is the best option.
Still, itâs too late for me to make that happen so I simply take a seat and pull out my iPad from my shoulder bag. I had already put it on Airplane Mode but I quickly turn it off and wait for the airport Wi-Fi to kick in. No sooner do the three bars appear when my notifications go into overdrive: Candy Crush, Letterpress and other games. I wait for them to finish, but not before one catches my eye. The Journal, an Irish online news publication, delivers breaking news about a plane crash. I almost laugh at the irony before tapping it to read more.
A replica of the plane I am about to board appears on my screen, with the caption âIrish airline crashes into Atlantic Oceanâ. A chill comes over me as I scan the article and read the briefest report on the supposed disaster. It mustâve just happened, as all the Journal can report is that the plane crashed just off the coast of Donegal, with 156 souls on board. Comments are already flooding in below the article, sending well wishes to those who more than likely have perished, and to their families.
It sounds bad, but I feel a sudden burst of hope as I contemplate the fact that we may not fly today due to the air crash. Surely all flights in the surrounding airports would be grounded whilst rescue workers tended to the wreckage. I look at each of the televisions on the pillars around me, and I frown. Thereâs nothing about the crash. The news is on but it is broadcasting the latest election results, with no mention of an airline disaster, not even in the rolling banner.
I look back to my iPad, the article still present on my screen. I make sure that it is refreshed, remembering that sometimes apps donât refresh automatically and I sometimes wind up reading old news. I imagine I wouldâve remembered such a news story, especially one so close to home. The news titles refresh and they remain the same. I click into the article once again and Iâm even more confused. According to the time stamp, it is an hour from now. Double-checking my watch, I confirm the time to be 15:28. However, according to the article the time is 16:28. This canât be right. Is the Journal playing some sort of sick joke? I thought that was reserved for so-called satirical websites.
âLadies and gentlemen, Aer Lingus flight EI301 to New York will begin boarding shortly at Gate 221.â
Remaining in my seat, I desperately scroll other news publications and Iâm stunned to discover that they too are reporting a plane crash in the Atlantic an hour from now. My stomach drops when I read the flight number: EI301 to New York. I stare out at the plane waiting on the tarmac, as if willing it to reveal whether or not itâs planning to kill me. It sits ominously, revealing nothing.
âYay weâre boarding!â bellows a young girl with a Hello Kitty rolling suitcase. She jumps up and down excitedly, much to her parentsâ amusement.
The queue begins to move. One by one, tickets and passports are scrutinised and passengers make their way down the stairs to the plane, blissfully unaware of what may potentially await them. Or is it potential? According to my news apps, this is going to happen in less than forty minutes. Would we even be over the Atlantic in forty minutes? Iâm trying to reassure myself as I watch more and more people make their way out of the terminal through Gate 221, my breath shortening and my heart beating rapidly. I should do something, I keep telling myself. I canât let this plane take off.
âWhy arenât you on the queue?â
I snap out of my anxiety-filled reverie and see Mark standing over me, almost glaring at me through his black, thick-rimmed Buddy Holly glasses. My fear quickly turns to anger. I hate that look. It makes me feel about two inches tall and he knows it. Heâs already given it to me twice today. The first time was when I forgot my passport in the glove box of my car which required us to walk a whole ten feet back to the car to retrieve it. The second was when I took longer than I apparently shouldâve to remove my jewellery for security.
âWhy would you wear jewellery in an airport?â he berated me.
Now here it is again. I have an almost overwhelming urge to punch him, which isnât new. You may be asking why Iâm with him, but the answer will not satisfy you. To put it simply, Iâm a glutton for punishment. My confidence lacks greatly and the idea of having a boyfriend at all is what keeps me in this horrible relationship. I fear that if I walk away Iâll seal my fate of being a lonely spinster for the rest of my life. But right now, that doesnât seem too bad.
âGod knows where our bags will end up,â sighed Mark, not giving me a chance to answer.
âI need to go to the toilet,â I say suddenly, rising to my feet.
âYou can go on the plane, weâre about to board.â
âYou know I hate airplane bathrooms, they make me feel claustrophobic. Besides, God knows how long Iâll have to wait until the plane levels off.â
âCan you not hold it?â
I have never stood my ground with Mark, and even in my head, I donât know exactly what Iâm doing, but I straighten my shoulders and say a flat-out ânoâ.
Heâs stunned, to say the least. He regards me with suspicious eyes, as if wondering who the woman standing in front of him had done with the submissive slave he called his girlfriend.
âOK,â he says finally. âTry to be quick.â
âI will.â I make my way towards the bathrooms, which, to my relief, are located several gates away from ours. More time to waste, I think happily.
Locking myself into a bathroom stall, I put the lid down and sit atop it. Pulling out my iPad again I check the articles regarding the plane crash and more have appeared on the newsfeed. I take it all in at once: âsurvivors unlikelyâ, âdebris foundâ, âloud explosion heard over Donegal before impactâ, etc. The reports are now time stamped at 16:43. I check my watch; itâs exactly an hour from now. An hour from now Iâll be free. I can hardly contain my excitement as I cover my mouth to keep from yelping.
âYay weâre boarding!â
Those words hit me like a tonne of bricks, sending my happiness into meltdown. I can see that little girl with her Hello Kitty case, barely able to control herself as she edged to get closer and closer to what may possibly be her first, and last, ever flight. Could I really sit here and let her perish so young? Tears well up in my eyes, stinging them. I try to justify my choice. Perhaps the articles arenât real, after all, theyâre supposedly written in the future. My mind could finally be breaking after years of emotional abuse and Iâm hallucinating. Surely what will happen is that Mark goes to New York alone and I get a very pissed off phone call from him when he lands.
âItâll be fine,â I whisper to myself, unconvinced of my words.
And now Iâm running.
People are jumping out of my way as I sprint towards Gate 221 with no other goal except to stop that plane from departing. Iâll shout it from the top of my lungs. Sure, everyone will think Iâm crazy and security will be called, which may only delay the flight. Mark will play the embarrassed boyfriend and heâll receive looks of pity and concern as people wonder how he puts up with me. Maybe I can at least stop the family of the little girl from boarding. I can make up some story that there is an emergency in their family and they canât leave.
I stop dead when I reach the gate. Only two people are left to board and I can hear them calling my name over the intercom.
âFinal boarding call for Lucy OâGrady, flight EI301 to New York. Could she please make her way to Gate 221 immediately?â
No one seems to notice the shy, scared woman staring out at the rain soaked, as mother correctly puts it, coffin with wings. I know I need to shout and scream but my lack of confidence stops me. Even in the face of impending disaster, the funny looks and the idea of being the centre of attention is enough to force me into silence. I take my ticket out and stare at it for a long moment.
Stay or go?
By now the tears have crawled down my face, like the raindrops on the terminal window. Did I not wish to be like them? To fall from the sky and merge with the earth, my lifecycle complete in a matter of minutes.
âExcuse me, miss?â
I suddenly realise there is a desk clerk standing before me, a look of concern on her face. âAre you Lucy OâGrady?â
âYes,â I mumble. I quickly wipe my eyes. âSorry, I needed to go to the bathroom.â
âItâs OK.â Itâs not; I can see it written on her face. I imagine she deals with this on a daily basis, people who are chronically late for everything and donât see the implications of their actions. Sheâs put me into their group. âLetâs get you checked in and onto the plane, itâs about to leave.â
And like that, Iâm ushered onto the plane. No screaming, no yelling, no warning. I make my down the lonely tunnel towards the open door of the plane. A flight attendant is waiting to greet me with the most pretentious smile slapped on her face. I briefly feel the rain on my skin as I step between the tunnel and the plane. I see Mark immediately in the third row. He gives me an incredulous look but he doesnât say anything as I take my seat beside him.
The plane rumbles to life and I tighten my eyes shut. This is it. After finishing their routine checks, the air stewards begin their safety talk. I blend in by not listening. Instead I look past Mark to the window, seeing the terminal reverse behind us through the rain, which appears to be getting heavier. It feels like hours before we make it to the beginning of the runway, awaiting our turn to take off.
Thereâs still time, I remind myself. We havenât yet reached the point of no return. I could scream and cause chaos, subsequently grounding the flight, even temporarily. Everyone would be angry with me, the little girl with the Hello Kitty case would probably cry and look at me as though Iâd told her there was no Santa Claus. But the plane would still go eventually, if not with this group then another, and they would probably suffer the same fate.
Iâm thrown back in my seat as the plane zips down the runway at ground-breaking speed. I hadnât even realised I had been sitting forward. The ground disappears beneath us and we are airborne, the ground growing further and further away. I close my eyes again and try to imagine the raindrop as it is sucked back up into the atmosphere by the sun and into the clouds, waiting for its reincarnation. I open my eyes and all I can see out the window are grey clouds waiting to burst. The raindrops are ready to begin their descent back to earth, to merge with it. The plane shudders manically for a moment, causing a stir among the passengers.
âJust a bit of turbulence,â I hear a man behind me say, reassuring whoever is next to him, or reassuring himself.
I feel calm now, even as the plane shudders more and the flames appear on the wing, licking the clouds. People start to scream as we suddenly fall into a dive, even Mark is panicking. He grabs hold of me, holding on for dear life, and I smile at him. We keep falling, the ocean coming up to meet us.
Falling, like a raindrop.