I want to
I want to be someone else or I’ll explode
floating upon the surface for the birds
the birds
the birds

When you are on a plane, trapped in the clouds, you are nowhere. Not really nowhere: you are somewhere, a moving point in space mapped by some sophisticated cartographic technology, but you are detached from everything that transforms spaces into places; in a sense you are detached from reality, it is suspended like you within an atmospheric cushion. Somewhere within this specific dot crossing the Atlantic, I sat in the forced darkness intending to mimic a natural night, while we were buckled into our leather seats, breathing the artificial air. I tried to close my eyes, to sleep like the others around me, but sleep would not come. I glanced at his sleeping profile next to me, at his translucent skin, his straight nose, his thin lips. In his sleep, he lost his fierce intensity, the stony veneer that demanded respect. In his sleep, he looked vulnerable, and I felt both protected and protective. Without turning the light on, I opened my sketchbook, flipping through the pages quickly without lingering – past sketches and charcoals, collaged pages dried stiff with primers and glue, thin wrinkled pages covered with lists of things I had to do or should have done but had forgotten to, the faint, comforting chemical smell of gesso mingled with the chilled, recycled air – until I arrived at an empty page. With the strange music playing in my ears just loud enough to cut the throbbing of the engines but not loud enough to be perceptible to anyone else, I took out the pencil and began to draw him, my hand moving blindly in the dark. My focused but quick glances transferred the details to my fingers with an understanding that was beyond vision. Lines turned into shapes and shapes into volumes, exactly as I was once taught, the traditional way, to follow the positive space. Whenever I was under stress, I reverted to old habits and learned ways of seeing. I shaded the pocket of skin under his eye, the shadow that fell across his face, and his lips so thin they looked as if they could disappear. In the dim light of the cabin, I could not make out exactly what I had drawn. The sketch was incomplete, half a sketch of half a face. It was only an impression – or even less than that, it was a mood.

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