Reading Pam Houston on an Airplane to San Francisco


In the window seat, I am reading a story about two friends, and I am thinking of you. In the story, one woman tells another woman that meeting her will change her whole life. The overhead reading light pools yellow on the page; the cabin dims to grayscale in the setting sun. I look up from the page. Miles away—50? A hundred?—lightning flashes, muted by clouds. I am thinking of the prairies between North Carolina and California, the flatness where you live. Out the window, rain strikes the wing of the plane, sparking in the regular flashes of the navigation light like flint, like rock on rock. These sparks generate no fire. Farther west, the sky clears, and I see that the fire is in the blazing sunset ahead. Below, lights sparkle in darkening cities. I think that I must be flying over you about now. I wonder which light below is you, but we are past you before I find you, one light out of millions. We are flying 500 miles per hour, and it seems like we should be catching up with the sunset anytime now, grabbing onto its lipstick colors. But the sunset is always farther ahead, the bruised reds and yellows and purples just out of reach. In the window seat, I go back to reading a story about two friends. In the story, two women sit under a star-filled sky. One tells the other that they will journey together, side by side. The yellow light pools on the page, the cabin otherwise dark. Somewhere around Colorado, I realize that the story is not about a journey side by side. Instead, I realize, it’s a story about never catching up to the sunset.  

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