[I had to cut a section from an essay for publication but would hate for my love of Brian McKnight to be lost to the world. It is reproduced below.]
Half an Ativan is not enough—I still think I’m going to die as we rattle down the runway.
Since I last flew, Virgin America has failed to renew their license on Brian McKnight’s “Back at One” so I cannot listen to it during takeoff. I’ve paid the premium to fly Virgin not for the mood lighting but because I can be listening to that song at the moment the wheels leave the runway—I have never yet died while it is playing.
That the music video for the song involves a plane crash is such a ridiculous coincidence that I must have sublimated the fact when I picked my to-die-to anthem.
It has an easy chorus to repeat if you picture yourself as a nervous child who has severe issues with memorizing numbers. My right hand holds the armrest as hard as I can without the knuckles whitening and my left hand grips my right forearm. I raise the fingers as I count up, mouthing silently.
“One, you’re like a dream come true,”
I listen too carefully for moment it feels to me the engines stop pushing us up and we float out.
“Two, just want to be with you,”
I would like to be in the middle seat next to She.
“Three, girl, it’s plain to see / That you’re the only one for me,”
When She rides her bike on nights when it’s too cold her fingers go white on the handlebars and for her it’s almost always too cold.
“And four, repeat steps one through three,”
Sometimes She gets home and sends me a picture so I see what She means.
“Five, make you fall in love with me.”
I write out the reply oh, I want to hold them then erase the line with the last vestiges of will. At least I am not coating my arms and back with cold sweat—thanks for that, half an Ativan. I pick up a copy of White Girls I can’t read and watch the plastic window shade, the color of clouds at 35,000 feet.
“It’s unbelievable how I used to say that I’d fall never.”