THIS WILL DARKEN THE CABIN
Halfway through my plate of tiger prawns
Robert Redford returns from the cockpit tour.
Such a face he says. Were you this soulful as a child?
He tips my chin & slides my headset back.
I’ve been listening to the pilots marking weather
in their code talk. Right now we’re at two-five-five
knots, heading straight into the soup above
Las Vegas. Our pilot has a clean, grey voice—
like creosote or silverware. He’s just said advise.
He’s just said preparing. Redford eases
into his seat, folding one knee
over the other. He rolls his double brandy
in a plastic snifter. The cuffs of his soft green shirt
are pushed into his elbows. I had some soulful ways, I guess.
I tuck into a small ramekin of green gage plums
soaked in cream & rice vinegar. At the edge
of my vision, Redford lifts his spoon, considering
the loose pyramid of Asian jungle fowl
on his tray. I pick up a tiny package
of salt. Know what I used to do with this?
I reach across Redford’s lap, taking a lengthy swallow
of brandy from his glass. At night, I’d eat this.
It was a thing. I’d pour a whole bunch
in my mouth, & then I’d chew until my tongue opened.
For the first time, I notice how it’s very quiet
here in First Class. I drain the brandy, listening to the hum hum
of the cabin lights against my gulps. Below us, Las Vegas
is an orange watchglass someone shattered. I think
about the neon people down there, the funny cowboy with tubes
of brown light for a ten-gallon hat, & I think how hard it must be
to make brown neon, & how we still need science.
After a moment, I feel Redford take the snifter
from my hand. He lowers it into the circular depression
in his tray. The plastic hazes where my palm
has touched. Redford reaches over, snapping
my tray into the seatback. Then he finds the place
where my safety belt catches. He gently pulls until
the belt tightens, low & quiet on my hips. He keeps his palm
on the buckle & I settle back. What made me, made me.
Above our heads, the reading lights go out.