Rejected Script from the Six O’Clock News – Jill Kolongowski

In the plane’s window seat, I’m reading a book so dirty I angle it so no one can see. I read about women who like being spanked until their asses bloom red, and men who like stealing women’s unwashed underwear. These are not things I like, but my blood is turbulent like boiling water. I try to think of the topsides of clouds and the work I have to do because I am the sort of woman who controls things. Most of all I control myself. But the book in my hands is heavy and hot as a live iron. It takes me ten minutes to get the courage to ask the men next to me to move, please. I know my face is pink so I touch my forehead as if I’m sick but I’m sure I fool no one.

Once in the bathroom, I shimmy out of my jeans and sit on the toilet lid. I try to forget about the smell of disinfectant and the flight attendant refilling coffeepots near my ear. I pretend I am sexy. Just this once, I hope the people waiting think I’m taking a shit. Then I stop thinking about them at all and think about the hollow where two collarbones come together, the slope of a man’s back. Back at row 24, I ask the men to move again. I slide past them and do not make eye contact.

The plane lurches. Drops by a foot. I feel like I’ve swallowed my lungs. Even the babies know to be quiet. We hit another bump of air and it feels like we’ve hit a tractor tire. Unseatbelted people are flung airborne. Someone told me once that those drops are actually the size of a two-story building. Someone screams and I hope it’s not me.

A flight attendant in the aisle stumbles, falls. I avert my eyes because I do not want to see the way her face looks, all unarranged. She stands back up, adjusts her uniform and her blonde hair. She half-runs to the phone.

“Hold onto your children,” she says over the loudspeaker.

We are flying over the Rockies and they look so beautiful in the ripe-peach evening light that I’ll feel guilty if we crash. My hand is white-clawed on the seat in front of me and I stare like it’s an exotic animal, something I don’t recognize.

I count the pinpricks of light from mountain towns and think of the people having dinner and having arguments like usual and what would happen to their dinners and their arguments if we explode into their living rooms. I try to think important thoughts. I’m trying to decide how to feel that my last act before death will be masturbating in an airplane bathroom. I want to think it’s shameful or maybe joyful but mostly how it will mean nothing when I’m dead.

The stewardess is patrolling the aisles again. The plane is mostly still. Daylight is nearly gone and the mountains are unchanged. The people below eat their dinners. I hide my book, check whether I have sweated through my shirt. The man and woman sitting behind me order booze.

“Time to celebrate life,” the woman says. “Diet Coke in mine, please,” she says.

Jill Kolongowski is the managing editor at YesYes Books, an MFA candidate at St. Mary’s College of California, and a proud member of the 3-4-5 writing community. Her work can be found in Southern Indiana Review, Pentimento, Lunch Ticket, Fugue, and elsewhere. Jill still loves airplanes. She sometimes tweets @jillkolongowski.

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