Statistics are no match for my cold, hard dread. Only one in eleven million they say. You’ve got more chance of dying in a shark’s belly, they say. Who are those ‘they’?
This is how it goes.
I’m in the terminal. My feet are on the carpet. The carpet is the ground. I walk to the gate clutching my boarding pass. The black text smudged from the sweat greasing off my hands.
I sit in a chair with my back to the window and get my phone out to nervously scroll through Facebook. Reminding myself of all the other things I could be doing that don’t involve getting into a tin can and lobbing myself into the sky. The chirpy voice asks for all Star Alliance customers and those traveling with children. Then several minutes later it’s all those sitting in rows 14 to 27. That’s me, here we go.
The pass goes through the scanner and there’s no going back. I follow the other fools into the rectangle. I can’t feel the ground anymore and the metal beneath my feet shudders a little as we all traverse the tunnel to the open hatch. I try to keep my sane face on. Every footstep is fatalistic. The anxiety cauterizes my stomach lining like battery acid.
The smiling man takes my pass and waves me to the rear of the aircraft. The rear. Damn.
I sit. I look.
I commit to memory the faces of the people who will die with me today.
Passengers chat to each other. The kid in front of me is playing on her iPad. My envy for their casual acceptance stabs me in the chest.
I close my eyes and take the first of many long, deep breaths. I feel the air traveling through my diaphragm. I picture it rushing past my heart. Down into my lungs. I think about cool, calm, stretches of grassy hills, solid and dependable. I whisper my calming phrase over and over until the words all come out as one long sound.
“This too shall pass”.
Slowly, slowly, my body relaxes.
It’s one hour to Auckland.