A late-night hop from Tucson to Phoenix, the captain is feeling frisky. "And, finally - the aircraft's best feature - the seat cushions may be removed and used as a flotation device in the event of a water landing. Remove the cushion and place your arms through the straps as indicated. You may keep the cushion with our compliments."
The voice trickles into my consciousness like a dream, the attendant at the front moving through her ballet: oxygen mask, seatbelt, seat cushion; her glossed lips breaking open, teeth shining, I'm full of sleepy tenderness for her. She passes me, trembling with silent laughter, her shoes sinking soundlessly into the carpet.
Two rows ahead, a Mennonite woman in white net cap and long dress sits beside a college girl, tight t-shirt framing overflowing breasts, decorated with a fading drawing of a beer mug and the legend, "One more for the road." I catch them studiously looking away from each other, mutual curiosity lighting up the air between them.
The attendant announces that the front is too heavy, four people volunteer to move to the back of the plane.
I take Mr. Billy's hand as we accelerate down the runway and lift off. It's too soon, too smooth, I'm certain we can't hang in the air and take my last look at Mr. Billy's clean, calm eyes before the crash.
Somehow, we stay in flight, dragging the tail upward, it must have been the collective will, all of us brought together in this bright capsule, shooting deep into the night.