Flying Solo

 /   /  By Emma Birches
Stone Soup Magazine
January/February 2011

Soledad Tejada
Flying Solo flying on a plane alone

The thin colored stripes seemed as if they were painted across the sky

I slipped the headphones onto my head, glancing out of the window at the big airplanes in red and white. The huge hunks of metal reflected the dim sunshine of the afternoon, with a special surprise, a rainbow. The thin colored stripes seemed as if they were painted across the sky. They sparkled a little, twinkling in the evening light. I slipped out of my shoes, locking my knees to my chest, and rocked back and forth. What if… what if… my thoughts trailed off and I locked my eyes on the rainbow. The sun illumined the pane of the window and I felt the warmth on my face as I shut my eyes.

“A good omen, we can all see it,” I imagined my mother’s voice.

“I can see it too,” I would have replied excitedly.

I looked over to my right, expecting to see my mother or father, but it was a stranger. I bit my lip, looking away quickly, back to the window, back to the rainbow, and back to the terminal where I knew my family stood. They were waiting for me take off, probably staring through a glass pane like I was. Looking away, I remembered I was flying solo, like an adventurer, like a hero. Yeah, right. It was like something I read in a book. What was that book called? I frantically racked my memory for distractions. I knew I was doing anything to get away from my bad thoughts, but they won. Suddenly my brain was filled with images of myself at home with my family, curled up on my bed with a book. The image made the fact I was all alone too clear. All alone, for two whole weeks, I thought again. Nervous butter-flies swarmed in my stomach.

Two whole weeks was a long time. Since it was summer, every day contained around twelve whole hours to spend with family. And twelve hours times fourteen days equals… When I realized it was more than a hundred and forty-four hours I stopped calculating. That was too long. Every day I would miss the joyful shouts of my curly-haired brother, the perfect advice from my mother’s mouth, and the feeling of family my father created. My chest burned and I realized I was holding my breath. I exhaled and watched travelers zoom around in the faraway terminal. They moved with such urgency, their miniscule legs going a mile a minute. Two whole weeks, two whole weeks, two whole weeks, my brain chanted.

I broke my gaze on the terminal and focused my attention to my iPod that was resting on my lap. I pictured my mother looking through the glass, but it just wasn’t, wasn’t… enough. I tried to hear the comforting words she would use to soothe me. What would she say? My mind wandered, searching for the sounds that would form her words. I was tired, my eyelids started to droop. I shook my head and looked down. With a sudden surge of energy I scrolled through my files quickly until I found a playlist. The playlist was my reinforcement, my solution. The playlist was titled Mama y Papa and filled with messages my Papa had taken so long to record… just for me. Blinking a few times to clear the tears that invaded my eyes, I pressed play. I jammed the play button down hard. Instantaneously, my Papa’s voice, loud and gentle, but promising and strong, filled my ears. I let my breath out and listened.

“Hola, domicella.”

I felt relief wash over me as I heard him say my name, in that special Spanish way. I listened harder as bits and pieces imprinted in my mind…

“Recuerdate de yo y mama siempre estamos con tigo y te amamos mucho.” Remember that me and your mama are always with you and love you a lot.

Both eyes filled with tears. I hung onto every word of his message. Every sound filled me with warmth, but then the last line came. Too soon, too soon, I thought frantically.

“Nos veremos y ahhh… cuidate y te amamo mucho, te amo, ciao, tu papa.” See you soon and ahhh… take care of yourself and I love you a lot, I love you, bye, your papa.

Flying Solo rainbow fly

The tears showed no mercy, streaming down my face. Wanting what was over, I reached to replay the message, to stay strong. The tears had already taken over though. Mixed emotions of sadness, nervousness, pride and anger all making rivers down my cheek. Why did they make me do this? I thought, Why? I was proud, my heart swelled, my mother and father are proud, they think I can do it, they believe in me… but what if I fail, what if I have an awful flight and I cry the night away and… I let it go. The butterflies in my stomach, my choked-up throat, I let it all go. I trusted in my papa’s deep, soothing voice. And suddenly I wasn’t afraid; the rivers of tears swelled but then receded because I felt brave. My whole family was urging me on, hoping, wishing, and thinking of me. They were urging me on, in the stands, telling me I could do it, and rooting for me. I knew they would always be there, so I took my adventure…

The stranger sitting next to me saw my tears and looked up, alarmed. But he was too late. I had already been comforted.

“Are you OK?” he asked, smiling sympathetically at me. I nodded as the tears reappeared with joy. I had overcome my fear.

“I’m just happy,” I choked and sputtered, sounding like an old engine.

“Well, if you need me, I’ll be over there. I’m changing seats,” he explained and then indicated where his friend stood, beckoning him. Barely hearing him, I smiled and nodded so he walked off.

Why would a stranger even care about me? Why was I important to him? I looked back at him again and smiled, but he was already making his way down the crowded aisle. I lay back in my seat, still exhausted and consumed by a whirlpool of emotions, so dazed I nearly missed the crackly voice of the pilot.

“This is flight 12792 to Geneva. We will be departing in five minutes,” he announced. “Flight attendants, assume position…”

The sudden rush of movement within the cabin awakened the butterflies inside me and I froze. But like magic, the heat from the sun and dazzle of the sparkling rainbow defrosted me and the butterflies dispersed and disappeared. I knew why too, I was calm because the pilot’s voice was now my papa’s, urging me on, and proudly, I took my adventure, my tears streaming with pride, glinting with the colors of the rainbow, and I braced myself for the journey still to come.

Flying Solo Soledad Tejada

Soledad Tejada, 11
Brooklyn, New York

Flying Solo Isabella Taylor

Isabella Taylor, 9
Austin, Texas

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