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Lines penned on a Southwest flight, coming home, after reading Stephen King.

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Purgatory is a claustrophobic flight in a thin blue-and-gray airline seat.

It’s an open window shade revealing nothing but gaping darkness, while the groggy, fat-bottomed woman ahead consistently rocks and teeters backward, aggressively infringing on that last inch of your sacred space.

Purgatory is Vegas-bound old women bellowing in jarring tones, discussing the mysteries of the universe with a harsh, nasal dissonance that someone somewhere surely must find beautiful. Not you, though—those staccato syllables ricochet and bounce off your nerve-endings like a hard rubber ball on a patch of close-minded concrete.

Purgatory is babies with inner ear issues crying, and children shrieking in a chorus, their caterwauling pelting your eardrums while the stench of recycled Italian food—garlic, butter, and over-seasoned meat—fresh from the nearby puckered anus of a mustached walrus envelopes you. It rises to kiss the ceiling, and the scent slips crafty fingers in the ventilation shafts so it can circle and repeat like some stinky, mischievous snake hell-bent on eating its tail.

Purgatory is an apathetic stewardess, the kind whose eyes are wise beneath the snazzy uniform and patent smiles. This person knows all, sees into your soul—this person recognizes you for the needy, whining shit you are.

Purgatory is a perpetually occupied lavatory after three rounds of drinks in shiny plastic cups, and a pilot who sings songs of turbulence in C Minor.

Purgatory is never reaching home.

Written Content Copyright© 2016 by Jennifer Fales