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Alina Stefanescu

Pilgrimage: United Airways Flight, Denver

For Lydia Alina (1948-2015), whose footsteps
I chase across the globe 


After my mom died in Amsterdam, after she took a flight from which she never came back still breathing, after her credit card was charged for flying a corpse, I know every flight is a matter of timing. 


The captain and co-captain are both young men, their faces soft with recent hangovers. Hi, says the captain. The co-captain is more fair-skinned. His young blue eyes look at me like baby showers alongside rich auburn hair. Cut close. His name is Muhammed but he wasn’t born that way. 


After take-off, the pilot stops speaking. He promises to update us but doesn’t. Muhammed takes over. His voice has a strange accent, as if he studied abroad. The accent is not Irish. My heart thomps and thuds. I just want to hear the pilot’s voice again. I want to know he can speak through the throat that might have been sliced open. 


My husband asks if I am okay. He’s not as much of a leftist. He doesn’t self-flagellate as thoroughly. Again— are you okay? I will be fine when I hear the pilot’s voice. Between gurgles of blood. The scene is primed. I am the hero in waiting and this beautiful man smiles, tries to hold my hand. Have we slept together before? He loves me. There are three kids that resemble us in the opposite aisle. If two more fell asleep, we could join the mile-high club. But I can’t be distracted right now. Not if this is what I know it can become.


Things I need to know. This is not a special flight. We have not been chosen for supernatural things. These notebooks will survive whatever blaze and crash transpires. My fingers can leave a field guide to terror. 


Things I need when faced with knowing. I need the words to stay dry. Not bleeding. I need nothing to change. To know nothing has changed or is changing. The script of silence from the cockpit is not a clue to the plot. The flight attendant’s eyebrow lift is not foreshadowing. I need to survive and live. Every single horror.







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