I hate wearing my glasses in stressful situations. It makes me feel handicapped.
I stand outside Standsted airport smoking until my gums sting. When I can’t bear it anymore, I head inside. A man in a wheel chair is rolled into my path. He has one leg. I stumble under the weight of my backpack. I right myself and readjust my glasses.
I make my way to the post-apocalyptic refugee camp of a check-in area for Ryan-Air. People mull about, frantic, weighing luggage and pestering one another in their respective languages. The Ryan-Air employees sway through the crowd like children at a wake.
I get to the desk and have my ticket printed. A man comes up beside me. He looks at the woman behind the desk and begins speaking in panicked Italian. The woman gives him a look more indifferent than the cold nothingness of space.
“I only speak English sir,” the woman informs him.
He waves his hands and seems on the verge of tears.
The woman sighs. “English, sir,” is all she can muster. I walk away. I go back outside and smoke two more cigarettes.
Security doesn’t take long. A tram takes me to my terminal. A large man, born from the belly of rap music, hollers into a phone along the way.
“You is being real inappropriate right now, bruv,” he tells the, apparently brave, man on the other side of the phone. I put in my music. I focus all of my attention on ABBA as our band of misfit budget airline travelers make our way onto the plane. I sit down, knees pressed hard into the seat in front of me. I wrap my head in my jacket, close my eyes and pretend to sleep until I manage to fall asleep.
I wake up mid-flight. I pull down my jacket. My tray table is open. The Sandman sits on it, picking something from under a fat fold. He is clumpy, the color of dirt under your fingernails; a baby made of ash and breadcrumbs. My ears are ringing from the ascent. But, I can still hear him.
“What if the plane crashes?” he raises an eyebrow, “did you write your letters this time?”
I frown at him. I didn’t. Usually I do. Before surgery, or plane rides, or the zoo.
“I thought not,” the sandman sighs at its own belly button. “What if this is the time you die, then. That would seem unfair, when you’re always so careful.”
Bits of him crumble past his feet and onto the floor. I pull my jacket back up over my face. I can feel the sandman crawl off the table and onto my chest. He hugs me. He squeezes harder than I would have thought possible.
“Or what if it doesn’t crash,” he mumbles, “what if you just died here in your sleep? That happens to people sometimes, you know, you don’t even have to be old.”
I groan under the jacket.
There is a ding and the captain announces the descent. I can feel the pressure in my ears. It’s always the worst going down.
The Sandman crawls up my chest and pulls down my jacket. He looks at my teeth, gritted with pain.
“You poor boy,” he weeps. He places his hand over my left ear where it is beginning to hurt. He presses both his hands onto it. The pain becomes staggering.
“You poor, poor boy,” he moans. Both his hands seep into my ear and then he pulls the rest of himself in. I can feel him, in my head. It is warm and heavy. There is a pressure at the base of my neck. He pushes his feet out of my mouth and peers our from one of my eyes. He sighs.
“It’s dark in here,” he muses, sadly.
I try to shake him loose. The person beside me gives me a concerned look. I close my eyes tight. finally, the plane touches the ground.
My ear settles, the light comes on.
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