Every time I fly, I lose my grip on the world a little more. On Monday afternoon, I boarded a flight to Darwin. We took off facing the city before making a sweeping right-hand turn and pointing the nose towards Central Australia. I leaned my head against the window as we turned and searched for the places I knew between the matchbox skyscrapers and sewing-thread roads. I couldn’t see my house but I found the triangle made by the bridge, the commission flats and the tram lines, and I thought about how many days I’ve stayed in the same four rooms, just wearing lines in the flagstones from my bedroom to the bathroom to the kettle to my study, and how odd it is that such little things ? a couple of dishes, the colour of curtains, the number of words on a computer screen ? so incomprehensibly small! ? could become so important, when there are clouds like cities and endless sky that we can lose ourselves in so easily.
In my dreams when I fly, it’s more like swimming. Getting off the ground is an effort and I’m held down by the weight of my own limbs. The air is heavy and stubborn, but if I kick hard and work my arms, eventually I make it above the buildings and the trees and the breeze picks me up and carries me along. I can go for awhile like that, weaving through flocks of birds and somersaulting over powerlines, as long as I don’t get too close to the concrete. Something about the city pulls me down again, thickens the air and makes my body sluggish. I wake up from flying dreams feeling like I ought to be exhausted.
10 minutes on an aeroplane, though, and I’m in the same place some philosophy classes failed to take me in 13 weeks. I think it’s being so close to the sky that does it ? the realisation that simplicity and intricacy are the same paradoxical creature; that the world is enormous and tiny all at once; that in 20 hours you can be on the other side of the planet but that so much can happen in those flagstone-floored rooms ? that the journey from nothing to everything can be covered in the space between a breath and a word spoken aloud. And every time I remember that there’s nothing to hold me up, the butterflies in my heart flutter a little.