A Fallen Man
One moment the banality of life seems so clear and the next moment it’s altered by an unexpected change. This plane was a hulk of steel soaring into the skies like a free bird. Now it’s hurtling dangerously downwards, losing altitude. In a few moments, it’ll be losing its passengers.
Ah the people. Such delightful, colorful faces who go about their lives making short lived relations on a transit flight. Never to say hello or even ask with a fake laugh, “So what do you do for a living? What about your family? Do you think we’re ever going to make out of this doomed plane alive?”
The left wing of the plane banks towards the left and sends a shockwave of shouts and terror across the galley. The pilots and the staff run from section to section, reassuring the passengers that everything’s going to be alright.
But we all know what’s going to happen. There’s a troubled young man seated next to me. He told me about his unruly relationship with his parents. They enrolled him in a college that wasn’t close to his best choices. In the end, he adopted the silent treatment and never answered back to them.
He sits by his seat, nervously fidgeting his phone, thinking whether he should call them one last time or not. Coward.
The woman to my other side, a young starlet somewhere in her mid twenties. She reminds me of a mindless drone who shot away all her happiness just to be alone with something that was never going to make her happy. Kathy Miller, a Yale graduate and a business tycoon. She spent the entire length of the flight coughing down pills to cure God knows what illnesses her job gives her.
Even now you can hear her talk over the phone with people shouting in the background. ”Yes, yes. Cancel all my appointments. I’m afraid there’s something wrong with the plane. Shift the meeting to some other day.”
Kathy seems blind to the fact that she won’t be making business meetings for a real long time now. I nudge her shoulder and ask, ”Why not call your loved ones?”
She just looks at me with a puzzled look as if she was born without a family and says, ”I beg your pardon. Can’t you see that I’m busy here?”
Alright Kathy. I won’t disturb you any longer. Just don’t start agitating like the gentlemen to my left when the thought of your apparent death dawns on you.
The plane just banked to the right and revealed the blue sea right below us. Some of the food trays and the plates roll to the right and injure some passengers. It is almost daytime and while I want to experience one last breath of fresh air, here I am enclosed in a pressurized chamber. The air hostesses are beginning to look timid. Those poor souls couldn’t afford to get into a decent modeling job, so they use their looks to appease to the lowest rung in the service industry. Rude and obnoxious frequent flyers.
I asked one of them while getting a cup of water-“What would you do if you were given the choice to change what you’ve become? Not all journeys have to end the way you expect them to”
She began laughing and a tear rolled up her eyes. “This is my destiny”, she said. The response from the other attendants was more or less the same. These people had lost all control and hope over their lives. What a crying shame?
I’ll be leaving a negative review for this flight if I ever survive this.
In times like these, my mind craves for some serious discussions. I tilt my head to the back and see a man stuffing food down his throat, crying and battling for the last piece of the entrée. At least he’s doing what he loves in his last moments.
The plane returns to its linear orientation and I can feel the oxygen levels depleting. The front is taken up entirely by a family who are praying on their knees. They look like middle class sub-urban folk who met with an unfortunate accident on their first flight. In the mayhem of the moment, it occurs to me that I’m strangely calm throughout the chaos.
Why? Maybe it’s because I’ve grown accustomed to all such tragedies. Never had I felt so anxious while being seated in my doctor’s office. Yesterday, he simply called me for a routine checkup and told me something that was going to change things forever. He showed me an x-ray report pointing towards a large abnormal outgrowth, shrugging his shoulders. He put his hand over my shoulder and said, “I’m sorry. But there’s nothing that can be done.”
So this was it. The end of the line. For the first time in so many years, I was acquainted with how close I was to death. It’s funny how you squander away every moment thinking you’ve got all the time in the world to do what your intends, until death comes knocking. I was living my life like I could always get another one at a bank.
And I realize now, man plays by the rules and follows the journey he thinks life has laid out for him thinking it’s all going to be fine. That as long as he keeps afloat, he’ll get by. There’s no need to rebel, complain or pester yourself by thinking, “What if I started living differently?”
I was no different than many of the other hapless souls on this flight. First in my batch, had a balanced social and family life. I was more or less the family disappointment for years until I landed a job. Material wealth and money are the surest paths to harmony and peace. That’s what I learned. I know it’s not right but as age falls on to a person, a few crooked truths about life brim to the surface.
And being rich was the best way to win people according to me. But now I want to do a lot more. I wanted to start a company, travel the world, rekindle old relations, apologize for my mistakes and take some control for my life. Learn a musical instrument, see a play, and act like a totally free soul.
All through the walk of life you suppress the voices that act out and don’t seem fit. Then you get slapped with a full stop and feel time slipping through your fingers.
The pilots just came out of the cockpit and a screen of smoke follows them. The blank faces on the passengers have suddenly gone awry and panic has started to set in.
It had been years since I had been to my hometown and seeing the ambiguity of my mortality, I needed to have one last visit.
Have you ever had the feeling like you were no longer swimming with control but floating with turbulence. This is what the passengers look like now. All hope seems lost.
I remember the words of a revered priest who once surmised, “Imagine if everything in your life was jotted down in a book and given to you, everything you’ve done, are doing or will do. Would you go through the pages with complacency of what you’ve done? And will you dare to look at the final page and see how the thread of life ends?”
But that’s the thing. Once the pages in life’s books have been filled, erasing and changing those pages is a hurdle that blinds you of the future.
“Life is a linear journey but it has its curves and stops”, the priest pronounced. Those who spent their lives fixing the damages and regrets of the past lose sight of how much time they’re losing.
My ears seem to have become deaf to the cries as we take a deep plunge. I take a notebook and start writing down a last message addressed to the forgotten faces who still had a place in my mind. I see the troubled minds doing the same-making calls, shooting their videos and whatnot.
Man feels the need to leave some legacy to the world no matter how small he might have lived. And when you start comparing those legacies with what others have carved, you feel small and insignificant.
We ignore the signs and threats that surround us. The ones that remind us of where we’re headed and the regrets we’ll cry over once the journey is complete. Right now I’m sharing that journey with a cabin full of people from all walks of life.
They have their joys, prides, victories, failures and unfulfilled wishes. But somewhere on the long road to the end, they too developed a shortsightedness.
My pen stops and I put the paper in my pocket as I try to tell myself there’s always a tomorrow to make amends. Just don’t react when the candle burns at its final length.