Conversations in the Sky

by Preh Memon

The 30-something banker nestled in seat 23C was stuck in an acutely difficult position. His laptop bag lay against his lower abdomen which was already in turmoil over a loaded bladder. Any attempts to move out of his seat towards the lavatories were rendered useless by the oncoming traffic of fellow passengers.

‘Really shouldn’t have had that Diet Coke before getting on,’ he lamented, fidgeting uncomfortably.

Trying to ignore his burn-gripped belly, he focused on the immediate surroundings. To his right, a teenager attempted to mount his backpack into an overhead cabin, exposing the banker to an unflattering view of his derrière. With a cringe, the banker looked away. A woman in an obscenely pink outfit attempted to manoeuvre her way around the teenager with limited success, getting stuck between the banker and the teenager. The banker’s ire grew. He closed his eyes and decided to wait until the aisle cleared up.

27 seconds.

114 seconds.

1047 seconds.

When the man jerked awake, the aircraft was comfortably cruising along a path in the sky. The seatbelt sign was still on but unable to contain himself, he quickly made the few steps to the lavatory to relieve himself.

2 minutes of absolute bliss

As he got out, an air hostess threw him a dirty look. He ignored her and made his way back to his seat, noting a little girl with fire-born hair in 23A whose eyes were intently trained on the view outside the window. She didn’t even look at him as he sat down, though he looked everywhere for a parent or sibling who, presumably at some point, was going to fill the chair between them. For now though, she didn’t seem to be the least bit concerned as she looked out the window searching for something only she knew.

35 seconds.

91 seconds.

312 seconds.

The girl continued to look outside and 23B continued to remain unoccupied. The banker eventually concluded, with a twinge of sadness, that the little girl was on her own. Her small head blocked the lower half of the window as she continued her search of the early evening skies. The banker decided to break the silence. He tilted himself slightly to the left and tapped her shoulder.

“Excuse me?”

She turned around to look at him. “Yes?” she asked timidly.

Given how terrible he was with conversation, he got directly to the point. “What exactly are you looking at?”

She looked at him with big, misty eyes. “I’m looking for my mum.”

The man was confused.

“Your mum?”

“Yes.” She cleared her throat, trying to appear less childlike in front of this big grownup. “My dad said when people go to heaven, they come somewhere up here. I’ve never been so high up in the sky so I thought I’d look for her.” She hesitated a little. “I can’t find her though. I don’t think she’s here.”

There was the almost audible sound of a crack as the man’s heart broke.

“I’m sure she’s here somewhere,” he started with a smile, trying to put her at peace even though he had no idea how. His area of specialty was debt financing, not making children happy.

“But I’ve looked everywhere,” she said with glistening eyes.

“Well how about we look together?” he suggested as he shifted around in order to get a better look outside the window.

Hope crept into her expression as she looked at him. “Together?”

“Yeah, why not? Four eyes are better than two right? Maybe together we’ll find her.”

She grinned as a solitary tear broke away from her right eye and rolled down her cheek. “OK!” She turned back around and both of them looked out the window. The 30-something man and the little girl began a fresh search of the heavens.

4 seconds.

9 seconds.

17 seconds.

Improvising, he gestured towards a thick bunch of clouds. “Maybe her home here is inside those fluffy clouds?” he asked the little girl. She shook her head. “She’d come out and meet me if it was. She always knew when I was coming home, even before I got there. She’d be able to tell I was close by and she’d come out and wave.” She shook her head again with finality. “She’s not in there.”

“Ok,” he ventured again, “perhaps she’s in that patch that’s farther away and you just can’t see her?”

“Maybe…” she said despondently. The man realized that kind of answer was not going to help him accomplish his goal. “Yeah, I don’t really think so either,” he said and craned his neck trying to get a better angle of the view. It was a beautiful sight. The setting sun cast a vivid orange, yellow and red stretch across the horizon, with gray clouds floating underneath and a darkening blue sky above. For such a grimy world below, the heavens above were breathtaking.

Inspiration struck. 

“Hmm, did your mum have a yellow dress?” he asked the little girl, as he locked his eyes on the horizon.

“Yes,” she replied as she turned around to face him. “How did you know?”

He grinned. “I think I found her.”

“WHERE?!” the little girl exclaimed, trying to follow his gaze.

He reached out and pointed at the horizon around the little girl. “In heaven, people don’t have to be humans. They can turn into anything, like animals or trees or anything in between. That’s what’s so special about heaven. It allows you to be whatever you want to be as a reward for being so brave in the world. When you go to heaven, you can even turn into light or colours. You see that pretty stretch of yellow? It’s been with us ever since we took off and it’ll be with us till we land. That’s her. That’s your mum. She loves you so much that she’s been with you this whole time. You just had to see it.”

The little girl’s hand reached out and touched the window. “Really…?” she whispered, wonder in her eyes.

“Absolutely. She’s warmth and beauty and she’s always with you.”

The little girl started waving violently at the stretch of colours. “Hi mum! I see you!” Laughter bubbled up her throat and she turned towards the banker, clutching his hands with her own. “Thank you for showing her to me! Thank you, thank you, thank you!” Her laughter rang through the entire aircraft. 

The banker laughed as well, glad to see the little girl at ease. “You’re welcome sweetheart. Say hi to her from me as well?”

“I will. But…how did you know it was her?”

The man smiled. “Well, my wife and your mum were friends.”

The little girl grinned. “Really?” She looked around the plane for the banker’s wife. “Where is she?”

The man smiled and he pointed out at the horizon again. “My wife is the red one.”

 

Conversations in the Sky

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