My phone rang, right when I was contemplating packing blue pants or black pants. My world has been an endless string of flights lately, and this past Sunday I was preparing for a 5:30pm departure to Frankfurt for work, where I sat at 2am when I started writing this blog.
I scrambled to find my ear bud, “Hola, Chica!” Instantly delving into the meaningless banter of what I was packing, my friend stopped me, “I’m struggling with what just happened in Orlando.” I paused, feeling completely disoriented, emerging from the cocoon of packing, music, coffee and writing that I filled my morning with. I was spinning, reeling, tried to change the subject and then centered back on the limited details she could muster. My friend said softly, “I just wanted to tell the people I love most, well, that I love you. I’ll let you go process… safe travels, love.”
Airports are the bane of my emotional existence. I found out that my mother had breast cancer while huddled in the corner of cheerful little Palm Springs airport. I wanted to smash the stupid crooner music bouncing off every white-washed wall. My flight out of PS was delayed that day, so I sat on the tarmac for over an hour. When I landed into San Francisco, it was right as my connecting flight was pulling away from the gate — I watched it pull away, nearly ripping out my heart and making it impossible to make it home to comfort my sister on a dark, rainy night. I slept that night on a comped cardboard bed in some shitty Holiday Inn by SFO. I remember the exact spot because I collapsed to the floor in a fit of sobbing at that airport — the spill stains and tacky discolored carpet under my shaking hands. Every time I walk past that spot on the carpet, I shutter. Airports are the shittiest places to process pain, grief, and yet, so often our hands are forced to do so.
I arrived at Denver airport, having spent some time thinking about Orlando, tears welling up, but rage and the quick current of traveling humans carried me through the day. I allowed myself to be distracted by the travel chatter in my head — Should I purchase another water? Did I leave a bone in the bag for Winnie? I think that overview slide will be the best one to present first…
On the airplane to Frankfurt, I was unable to find the appropriate level of distraction. I worked diligently on my presentation for a couple hours, ate my exceedingly dry chicken (cursing myself for checking the gluten free box, while the snooty woman next to me scarfed down some juicy heavy dish), and popped open the entertainment console. Uninspired to write, I put on The Martian, a Hollywood blockbuster I had watched when it was first released.
True nerd-style, I’ve always been obsessed with space. I had glow-in-the-dark stars on my ceiling, consumed every book on astronomy possible, and I took the care to meticulously memorize JFK’s “to the moon” speech, delivered to 35,000 people at Rice Stadium on September 12th, 1963 (I know, I was real wild and crazy fun company!) JFK was inspiring the Apollo missions, something radical and seemingly impossible:
But if I were to say, my fellow citizens, that we shall send to the moon, 240,000 miles away from the control station in Houston, a giant rocket more than 300 feet tall, the length of this football field, made of new metal alloys, some of which have not yet been invented, capable of standing heat and stresses several times more than have ever been experienced, fitted together with a precision better than the finest watch, carrying all the equipment needed for propulsion, guidance, control, communications, food and survival, on an untried mission, to an unknown celestial body, and then return it safely to earth, re-entering the atmosphere at speeds of over 25,000 miles per hour, causing heat about half that of the temperature of the sun — almost as hot as it is here today — and do all this, and do it right, and do it first before this decade is out — then we must be bold.
I drifted into my movie. The Martian follows an astronaut named Watney (played by Matt Damon) who is impaled by a large spike of metal, shutting down his suit’s ability to communicate vital signs. He’s stranded on Mars in the evacuation, assumed dead. The movie is centered on rescuing one white guy and bringing him home — not an unoriginal plot. However Hollywood it may be, the movie has some great progressive moments, including the strong, decisive, caring female commander, who ultimately rescues Watney. She bravely snags his hurling body through space and pulls him close towards the mother ship, literally and figuratively. In fact, they nearly miss each other, then spin in circles, being wrapped in the yellow tether that will secure and haul them both back to relative safety.
In the film, the world erupts with joy upon learning of the rescue. Tears flow, international enemies hug, everyone breaths a collective sigh for the safe return of someone so lost, so stranded, so alone for over a year. A member of our human race: returned. At this moment in the movie, I let myself crack into a sob of deep soulful tears. With age, I’ve grown less and less concerned what people think about public displays of emotion, so I let it go, embracing the awkwardness of close proximity, celebrating the premium cabin with fucking everyone wearing Bose noise-cancelling headphones.
Tonight I had a brief conversation with my friend, a beautiful muse in my life, about how airplanes are one of the most powerful places to process some big shit. She shared a poem on the topic. We run through the airport with all this emotional baggage, shimmy our asses into a chair, and sit for hours with a-musements and the hollow hum of a engine, attempting to distract us. When is the next snack coming along? However, when we’re suspended above earth, we aren’t governed by all the same laws of existence and one can really take imaginative and emotional liberties with this. I often look out my window at the curve of the earth below, and feel a wave of pain pulsating from our planet. Calm, quiet, lights flickering.
Our planet. This is ours… our fucking planet. How can we let it get this bad?
Like a satellite, I closed my tearful eyes let my mind drift over to Orlando, looking down from high above. I hovered over the site of the shooting, the massacre, the quiet chaos that this slightly detached view afforded me. I wanted to have a big yellow tether to extend out to them, pull them into an embrace. Space and tragedy both remind us of how small, fragile, and precious we are.
There is a collective shift happening to move us towards a more freeing way of existence. With change, heavy things are stirred up. The restrictive dualistic thinking — good and bad — right and wrong — male or female — is being replaced with multiplicity. In my little 30-some years I’ve identified as heterosexual, lesbian, gay, queer, bisexual. I’ve loved men, women, those who identify in-between or choose not to at all. I’ve been very imitate, completely celibate, or every shade of sweetheart with the feminine gendered, masculine gendered, metro and androgynous. Multiplicity… We don’t need to be tethered to anything other than the love that rescues us from oblivion and irrelevance.
Multiplicity scares people.
The violent and hateful monsters that resist this macro-ideological shift towards love and acceptance (over fear, dominance, destruction and order) will find every way to murder the strange ones. They will find ways to eliminate us, quiet us, and squash our celebrations. They will try to stop us, but our movement is rooted in a planet we inhabit, a planet that is in a desperate need for change in so many ways.
From this space, hovering above the planet I call home, I send my love to Orlando… the sweet strange creatures struggling to cope with loss and fear. The sweet strange creatures taken too soon in our evolution. It might seem dark today, impossible even, but know this: the hateful are powerless to stop the light and love that binds us, rescues us from isolation, and moves us closer to the mother ship.
With love and Orlando in my heart —