(originally posted November 1, 2011)
One thing that has become evident throughout this whole horrific ordeal of losing Don, is that I have some pretty amazing friends.
Two of those great friends are Marina and Dave. They are married; and they met one another over 20 years ago; in our college days at Adelphi. Marina was an Acting Major, like me, and Dave was a music major and brilliant pianist. I was friends with both of them separately. I remember one time on campus, Marina asking me about my friend Dave, and saying she thought that he was cute. Dates were set up, and fate was put into play. Once they got together, they were pretty much inseparable. Marina continued acting, and Dave switched from being a music major to being a med.student! It was literally an overnight change for him. Perhaps he had thought about it for a long time inside his own head; but for the rest of us; it was completely random. He had long hair and smoked cigarettes and played Jazz and Rock music; and then one day he told all of us: “I think I want to be a doctor.” The next day he cut his hair off, quit smoking, and changed his major. Now he’s a doctor at NY Presbyterian, and Marina is his wife. She is still an actress, and Dave continues to play piano as a hobby. The piano that sits in their home is played more often, though, by their son, Ben. They have another boy named Jake; and they are both cute as hell.
Dave was about to turn 40. For his birthday celebration, they planned a big trip to New Orleans with 3 other couples. One night; a few weeks after Don died; I got a text from Marina saying: “We are taking you to New Orleans. We want to pay for your hotel and your flight and everything. We just want you to come and see a new city and hear the incredible music. Please come!” I was so touched. And floored. And overwhelmed by the idea of hanging out in a strange city with a bunch of married couples; and me; the widow. The very thought of that made me sort of sick to my stomach and sad inside; and the last thing I wanted to do was ruin everyone else’s trip with my sadness and misery. So I told Marina I would think about it; and then I thought about it.
Turns out that while I was thinking about it; my other awesome friends Andrew and Rodney were also planning a separate trip to New Orleans for that same weekend! Andrew is from there originally; so he was going to give Rodney a few days in his city for a Bachelor Party. This changed everything for me. Two friends that wouldn’t be coupled up? People that wouldn’t be holding hands with or kissing anyone while hanging out in the city? People I can surround myself with if I get too overwhelmed or sad being with the couples? Yes! I would like to go on this trip please! The best part of the whole thing is that Rodney and Andrew are also Adelphi friends. All of us went to college together; so in a weird sort of way; this trip would end up being like a mini-reunion. Like old times. And there it was. A trip to New Orleans. All of a sudden, here was something to look forward to.
Thursday, October 20th. The day is finally here. We are going. I get into a cab and head to Newark airport. It’s a super early flight, and I hate flying. Let me be more specific. I hate crashing. And when I fly, ALL I think about is crashing. If there is a noise of any kind, I am 100% sure something must be wrong with the plane. When there is turbulence, I am convinced that death is soon to follow. The last time I flew, I was with Don, and we were taking a vacation to Florida together, to spend some time in Orlando, then Tampa to see Yankees spring training baseball, then St. Pete; where he used to live. I remember him gently laughing at me and shaking his head like he always did at my crazy, over dramatic antics. He always accused me of being over dramatic; when in reality; I was simply stating how I felt. I was never trying to be dramatic. For example; if we were on a plane and the plane was shaking back and forth nonstop in a frightening manner; I might say to him: “Boo – are we gonna die? Why is the plane shaking like that? Why isn’t the pilot saying anything? Oh my God, we are going to die, aren’t we?” And he would respond calmly: “No Boo. We aren’t going to die. We are fine. Its just turbulence. You’re so over dramatic.” Then he would see that I was white as a ghost, laugh at me some more, and then take my hand in his. “Here. Use my arm to pinch and squeeze if you need to.” And then as I was squeezing his arm, he would sit there and patiently, quietly explain to me how a plane works, why there is turbulence, and why it is normal. “It’s just the plane going through some wind. Think of it as a tiny bump in the road in your car. That’s all it is Boo. We are perfectly safe up here. Keep grabbing my arm.” He would always explain everything to me in a logical way, so that it made sense, and so that I didn’t feel as scared. And he was never condescending about it either. He never made you feel like you were stupid for not knowing something; yet he usually knew more about most topics than I did. By the time we landed, his arm would be all red and scratched up to bits with my fingernail marks. He never complained. He would smile and say: “See Boo? We are here and we didn’t die.”
This time, there is no Don here to make me feel safe. It is just me. When its time to board, my heart starts pounding as I walk down the tiny hallway thingy and finally find my way onto the Continental plane. B34 …. B 34 …. Where the hell is B 34? I walk for what seems like days, until I finally reach the aisle I will be panicking in for the next few hours. B 34 is all the way in the back; across from the bathroom. Great. So not only do I get to have anxiety for three hours straight; I also get to smell stranger’s poop. Awesome. A/B/C … even more great news! I have the B seat, which means I’m in the middle. So now I get to feel extremely claustrophobic, stuck in between two people Ive never met and don’t care to ever meet.
I put my bag up above, and then slide my fat body into the middle seat. My huge thighs fit into the seat, but there is a tiny bit of “spillage” hanging out the side. I feel like a sausage link again.There is no one in the Window Seat, and an older business looking guy with a laptop is in the aisle seat to the left of me. He seems unphased by me and my fatness. As I sit down and try to locate the seat belt, I start to realize very quickly that I am too fat to buckle it. Is that possible? Last time I flew was about a year and a half ago, and I buckled it fine then. There is no way in hell Ive gained that much weight since then. Hell, if anything, I have lost a few pounds since Don’s death, from simply being too lazy or depressed to cook and eat! How is it that I cannot get this belt on? Okay, hold your breath, I tell myself. Try again. Again. Again. One more time. Do not make a scene. Do not make it obvious that this wont buckle. Am I going to have to ask for a seat belt extender? Am I THAT person? Please dont let me be that person.
And then, it happens. Just as I am feeling like I couldn’t possibly ever feel worse or more embarrassed with myself for simply existing; it happens. Minutes before takeoff, a woman boards the plane. A last minute passenger. She makes her way down the aisle until she gets to 34C. She is the missing person who has the Window Seat. Our eyes lock for a second. She gives me a look that expresses disgust. Then she says in a really annoying, over the top, Long Island accent: “I’m over there …. ” “Okay”; I say; as I pretend to remove my seat-belt that wouldn’t close; from underneath the magazine that’s on my lap to hide the fact that my seat-belt isn’t closed. I really deserve an Oscar for this performance. I get up and stand in the aisle so that she can get in. She isn’t even halfway in, and she is already looking annoyed that I walk the earth. I sit back down and again, pretend to re-buckle my seat-belt, putting the magazine in my lap so no one can see the belt is not locked. She sits down, buckles her seat-belt, then lets out a huge sigh. This was a sigh that said: “I am being severely inconvenienced by this fat bitch next to me, and I simply won’t have it!” She undoes her belt, stands up quickly, and then proceeds to step OVER my entire body to get to the aisle of the plane. (the business dude was in the bathroom.) Really lady? Was that necessary? I would have moved so she could get out, but at that point, she was pretty much finished with even acknowledging me as a human being. She stomps up the aisle to the front of the plane; and seconds later; she has a whole circle of crew surrounding her, as she tells them of the horrible monster that is sitting beside her.
I can’t hear what is being said, but I can see it, and it’s very obvious. Every few seconds, one of them looks over at me. They keep talking. We are supposed to be taking off now. It is time for takeoff. I have never been so humiliated in my life. I start to sweat, and I am seconds away from crying. Why is this happening? Why now? Am I really going to have a Kevin Smith incident and get thrown off this plane for being too fat? I suddenly start picturing myself, an hour in the future, calling Marina or Andrew, and making up some story about why I’m not going to be able to go to New Orleans. There is no way IN HELL I am telling them that I was too fat to fly on a plane! Is this actually happening? I can’t stop sweating. I feel like I’ve just committed a crime. I feel so guilty, and awful, and angry. I wan to run away.
Bitch Lady stays up at the front of the plane, and this very security-official-looking Staff Member guy starts walking down the aisle toward me. He looks very serious, as if he is about to confront a possible terrorist. I can’t breathe. Finally, he leans into me, and he says in a whispery voice: “Ma’am, we have encountered a problem. The passenger in the seat next to you is feeling a bit crowded and uncomfortable. She says that you are spilling over into her seat.” He looks at me, as if I am supposed to come up with some magic solution to my being fat. What the fuck does he want me to say? Should I instantly lose 30 pounds so she can be more “comfortable?” Should I just put a gun to my head and kill myself, so that I don’t inconvenience this twat? What the hell do they expect me to do about this? I say nothing, and the tears start coming. They are the silent ones, that just trickle down your face slowly. People start looking at their watches, wondering what is going on, why we haven’t taken off yet. If these assholes want me to volunteer to get off this plane, THAT AIN’T HAPPENING!!!! First of all, this Long Island bitch is tiny. TINY! She is about 5 ft 4 and weighs nothing. She is skinny as shit, and even though my thigh fat stuck out of my seat a tad, it wasn’t even CLOSE to touching her perfect, spoiled self. She had plenty of space in her stupid little bubble of a life. Second of all, I just had my husband cremated. I just made the decision to donate his organs. I just picked up his ashes in a freakin’ canister and placed it in my freakin’ living room. I DESERVE to go on a vacation, and I am NOT getting off this plane! I want to scream at all of them that my husband is dead. I want to cry my head off until I get my way. But I cant. I am paralyzed. I cant say anything.
few seconds go by, and Bitch Lady comes back to the aisle. Her arms are folded and she is just standing there. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a stewardess appears. She looks at my face, and seems to understand that Im in some kind of pain. She gently says: “How about if you two switch seats? You could sit in the Window Seat, and you can sit in the middle. You might not feel so crushed or crowded if you’re not pinned into the window.” At the same time, I say: “Okay, Ill sit in the Window”; and Bitch Lady says: “I dont think that will work.” I move over to the Window Seat, sit down, and make the motions with my hands; “pretending” to put my seat belt on. And then a small miracle happens. I hear the clicking sound of the belt. It closes! I don’t know why the hell the middle seat-belt would not even REACH my waist, yet this one not only closes, but I have extra room. Whatever the reason, for a second, I feel victorious. I feel justified in my ability to sit on a plane and not harm others.
Then I just wait. This is ridiculous. I know I am overweight, but this is insane to me. I am not crushing this woman. I am not even touching her. She just hates fat people and has no soul. She probably has a perfect fucking life and one of those cars with the big bows on it that Daddy bought her senior year in high school. I bet she has never worked for one goddamn thing in her life, ever. I bet that Kim Kardashian is her fucking hero. She gets back in, hesitantly, and puts her belt back on. Without ever looking at me, she says to the stewardess: “Okay. This is a little bit better.” And suddenly, it is over. I am allowed to stay on the plane. A few minutes after we take-off; she says to me in a faint and unconvincing voice: “I didn’t mean to offend you or anything. I just get really claustrophobic and need to have space.” I want to scream at her that I just lost my husband to a sudden heart attack, and really make her feel like shit. I really want to. But I don’t. It will accomplish nothing, and Im much too exhausted anyway. Besides; she would never in a million years understand or care what Im going through. To her; Im just some lazy, disgusting fat girl. To her; its that simple. For the entire 3 hour flight, I stare out the window and cry. There is a lot of turbulence, and I grab the tiny window ledge and pretend it’s Don’s arm. “Its Just wind. It’s just wind. It’s okay Boo. We’re okay. We didn’t die, Boo.” I say this to myself over and over, like a prayer. I just keep repeating and repeating Don’s words until we are safely landed in NOLA.
To Be Continued ……….