Are We There Yet?

Harper Warner

6:43. We’ve been on this plane to nowhere for two hours. Naturally, I was seated with an ogre that climbed out of a swamp and still smelled like it. A passive-aggressive battle for the armrest had started in the last hour, and I was determined to win—until his slippery forearm glided over mine. I reached up to see if the air conditioning had miraculously come on and was greeted by a burp of hot air.

“Can you please turn that off?” The woman behind me asked. “I’m dying in here!”

I rolled my eyes. Me too, you’re not special—oh. Turning around in my seat, preparing a fake apology, I first noticed the blue map of veins cutting through frighteningly translucent skin, with endless flaps folded one over the other. Dull purple bags hung from her milky brown eyes. The old woman was practically melting. Through the crack between the seats, I watched her squirm angrily like a demon when it gets splashed with holy water in the movies.

“Oh…of course! Sorry, I thought it might help circulate the air. Make it not so stuffy.”

“Well, it’s not. Turn it off.” For someone who resembled a dropped ice cream cone, her voice was steely and strong.

I did. More time passed, and more sweat dripped. Flight attendants scooted by with bottles of water and snacks. Four dollars for chips? No thanks. The plane shook with the increasing number of patrons squeezing up and down the aisle resulting in several disgusting shoulder bumps with Shrek. The hubbub made it hotter, and my shirt clung to my chest, showing the Rorschachian sweat stains. The old woman kept fussing about the temperature and finally flagged down a flight attendant.

“Would you care to explain what’s going on? It’s been almost three hours, and no one has told us why.”

“Unfortunately, we have no details from the tower other than we need to delay the takeoff,” the attendant smiled condescendingly and offered the woman more water.

7:27. We jerked forward, and I pushed up the shade on the window to see the last of the heat waves rippling off the tarmac. The sky swirled together with the sun until it set, pink, purple, black. The airport looped back in view as static crackled over the intercom.

“Hey, folks. It looks like we’ve run out of water, so we’re swinging back to restock before our flight.”

A series of groans erupted from the crowd, but the loudest came from behind me. The old woman had begun to pant and clutch her chest.

“Hey, uh, can we get a doctor? I think she needs help.” I looked around for someone and then back at her. “Guess you weren’t kidding about the ‘I’m dying’ thing, huh?” She didn’t laugh.

When we docked at the gate, EMS carted her off. I’m pretty sure she was being overdramatic, but they did stick her with an IV. The door sealed behind her like the gates of hell, leaving us trapped with the promise of prolonged torture. Once she was gone, the energy died back down. Everyone settled and tried their best to get comfortable, which meant making everyone else uncomfortable. Shrek’s stomach gurgled as his face started to turn green, and the seat in front of me leaned back till it slammed my knees. I envied the old woman; she was free.

9:12. I reached up and turned the fan on again and tried to dream. I saw the white sand that whistled if you stepped a certain way, the crisp green water beating against the beach. It would be perfect: good friends, good food, and good music. I pretended the hot air from the vent was a gentle breeze, and the grumbling chatter was the grumble of waves crashing. I could even taste the soft, salty ocean spray that drifted across my face…

“Bless you.”


About the Author

Harper Warner is currently a student at the University of North Florida, studying English and Creative Writing. She worked on the school’s journal, The Talon Review, as Newsletter Editor and Art Associate Editor. She has also interned for Trio House Press, a Jacksonville-based poetry publication. In January 2021, her non-fiction piece, “Down by the River,” was published in Contrary Magazine.