It’s a half-empty early morning flight from Oakland into Midway and the sun is coming up, lighting the plane like the inside of an eyelid. The stewardess asks in a whisper if I would like another coffee an I say OK and she sets it on the tray with a white napkin and a small bag of cheese-flavored pretzels, which I stuff in the pouch with the others. I reach over my head and turn the light off. The plane is glowing, there’s so much sun outside. I’m in the back and I have all three seats. I haven’t been in Chicago in six years and I’ve only been on a plane three times in my life. I don’t like to fly.
There’s a giant sound like a bird has been sucked into one of the jets and the seatbelt light flashes on. I grip the armrests as the plan shakes violently twice then continues its course. The pilot doesn’t say anything over the speakers and most of the passengers stay asleep. I turn and see the stewardess in the dark back cabin, sitting in a triangle of light, on a platform against a series of metal cases, reading a magazine, the belt across her lap unfastened. I have blisters on both hands where my girlfriend, Ambellina, burned me with a cigarette when I told her I was going to Chicago for the weekend. I brought just a small bag with me, a change of clothes, a notebook, and an alarm clock. I’m traveling light.