Sunday Stories: “Who I’ve Been on Airplanes”


Who I’ve Been on Airplanes
by Jessica Mooney

I’m sorry. I’m sorry about your father, your sister. I’m sorry about your friend. That’s wonderful news! Please. Let me help you. Let me help you with that. Yes, I have heard that people can communicate with aliens. Excuse me. Do you want this People magazine? I’m a playwright. A paralegal. A Dom. Due to a rare degenerative disease, I’ve slowly been going blind and deaf since I was a kid. I’m the person you call when they won’t cover your claim. I don’t believe in the fourth wall. I’m not the kind who tells you to lick my boots. I experience the world as a camera lens pulling away in tiny increments. No, Sheri, I don’t think he loves you in the way you need to be loved. I’m the mascot on the sidelines—it’s me inside that head! I’m a lifeguard. I’m the sole survivor of a ten-car pile up on Highway 1. I go through whips every six months, the lash ends wear quickly. Yes, it is hot under there but cartwheels help circulate air around the eyes. I can only feel the left side of my body. I can only remember things while relieving myself in public restrooms. I’m a crook, a seminary student, a private aesthetician to the most hirsute man in North America. The safe word is often the name of the submissive’s mother. He’s my one client, very soft spoken. He barely makes a squeak when I rip the wax off. It damaged the part of my brain that registers time. Weird, isn’t it? I once pulled a man from the ocean who was twice my size but felt light as a feather, like he had the hollow bones of a bird. After the accident, the first word that came back was No. I’ve given mouth to mouth. I’ve been the driver of a getaway car. I can only tell time by shades of light, but I’m very accurate. Even though I wanted it, I could only decline the Jello. I know my way around a blind alley, a tropical fishtank. I wanted more Demerol, a different television channel, his hand in marriage—but couldn’t say so. There’s a correlation between dudes who shave their chests and those who swim out too far. Smaller fractions of minutes mean nothing to me—the pennies of time’s currency. No, I haven’t been to the Outback. To Chiapas. To Cleveland, Ohio. The key is trusting your reflexes, staying on top of the algae, killing your darlings. It’s about looking at the human body as a giant, wonderous follicle factory. So much depends on having the right vocabulary. No, I’ve never seen an alien autopsy. I’ve never had my own backyard, though I have a recurring dream where I mow an endless expanse of grass. I had a one-night stand with the lead singer of a metal band who had scars on his face from getting bit by a dog as a child. I told him his misfortune was serendipitous—he growls for a living, for Christ’s sake! After a few bourbons, he turned into a fortune cookie. He told me that part of love is fear of love and part of fear is love of fear. I like to think I have a good bullshit detector, but I have a weakness for solipsistic dilettantes in dark bars. Part of being good at detecting good bullshit is loving good bullshit. Part of fearing good bullshit is fearing the love of good bullshit.


Where do I go from here?


Good luck!

Good luck.


I’m sorry!

I’m sorry.


Nice to meet you!

Nice to meet you?

Nice to meet you.


Jessica Mooney is a 2017 finalist for the Deborah Tall Lyric Essay Book Prize. Her short stories, essays and literary criticism have appeared in the Seattle Review of Books, The Rumpus, Salon, City Arts Magazine, the What to Read in the Rain Anthology published by 826 Seattle, and elsewhere.

Image source: Wikipedia via Creative Commons

Follow Vol. 1 Brooklyn on TwitterFacebook, and sign up for our mailing list.