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  • Writer's pictureSharon Michalove

I've been away for a long time...

Missing in action. All sorts of traveling and hiding in the writer's cave has meant no blogging. But now, with Dead in the Alley ready to be released on August 10, a good start to my new project, and no more travel until September, I can take a breath. My latest trip was to the No Excuses Writers' Retreat at Capitol Reef National Park in Utah. I had an amazing week with the three facilitators and a great group of writers as well as stunning scenery. This is something I wrote on the way home from Salt Lake City. A little musing on flying first class, a rare treat.

A First Class Fantasy

Sitting in almost empty first class, I watch passengers file past with awkward carryons. While they struggle down the too-narrow aisle, the cabin attendant stops at my seat.

“Something to drink?”

My mind goes blank. Short and unremarkable, I’m frequently overlooked in the crowd. All that comes to mind is my usual water, no ice. Not very celebratory. After a grueling but stimulating week at a writing retreat, I want to reward myself for surviving. A faint memory of the couple in front of me asking for champagne tempts me to eschew my usual gin for some bubbly. First class and free drinks. I may as well take advantage of the upgrade.

“Champagne?” It comes out like a question instead of the positive request I intend. You belong in first class, I tell myself. You paid for the upgrade. Let all those insecurities go.

Now I’m drinking too-sweet champagne out of a plastic cup. Not exactly Dom Pérignon’s stars in a bottle but tolerable. This is only the second time I’ve flown anything but coach, and the first was when I was nineteen. Feels less exciting fifty-one years later. But I appreciate the wide seats and legroom. And the mediocre champagne.

The first time I was upgraded, the flight was to visit my grandparents in Phoenix. This time, I’m on my way home from a writer’s retreat in Utah. To the desert, from the desert. How much is the same, and how much has changed? I’m not the wide-eyed girl terrified by her first flight. By no means blasé even now, a frisson of anxiety runs straight up from the bottom of my stomach and bubbles into my throat as we pull away from the gate and begin to taxi onto the runway. Then, as now, I am alone.

My fingers grip the arms of the seat, aching as I will the plane into the air. I miss my traveling companion and best friend. He would loosen my hold and caress my hand, telling me, in his soothing bass-baritone, that everything is fine, we won’t crash and burn. Squeezing my eyes shut, I pretend he is beside me. My breathing slows, chest loosens, and I, still alone, am no longer afraid.

The champagne melts the knotted muscles in my neck and shoulders just as the attendant brings a square ceramic dish of salted mixed nuts. I pick out the almonds and leave the rest. Somehow the cashews and pecans don’t appeal and my other favorites, hazelnuts, walnuts, and pistachios aren’t in the mix.

Once everything is cleared away and the tray table stowed, I close my eyes and picture a tall, handsome man. Slim build, dark hair just starting to silver, clean shaven. Must be a business man in his gray wool suit, dark blue dress shirt, and, and shockingly rose-colored silk tie. He looks at me, worry creases in the corners of his green-gray eyes.

“Are you a nervous flier?” he asks.

I nod and he puts a large, warm hand over mine. “Everything will be fine,” he says. His deep, gravelly voice sounds like he comes from New England. Not as pronounced as Boston. Maybe Vermont or Rhode Island. He cradles my hand as we sit silently for the rest of the flight. When we come into land, he lets me squeeze his fingers tightly. Once we’re on the ground, I drop it like a hot potato, looking out the window to hide my embarrassment. The doors open and I turn my head to say thanks. Before I can say a word, or find out his name, he’s grabbed a leather briefcase out of the overhead compartment and vanished, A card flutters down from the empty chamber and lands in my lap. On it, there is a just a phone number.

My eyes snap open. What a great meet cute. I pull out my phone and open the notes app. Maybe I should fly first class more often.

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