Saturday, August 10, 2013

Flights of Anger

The man next to me had designs on getting surreptitiously drunk. I put my bag in the overhead compartment and squeezed into the middle seat on a full flight to Ft. Lauderdale. Every few minutes he would turn his back to me and face out the window. Then he would reach under a cushion and pour liquid into his cup. The smell of the substance was strong and unmistakable.

The perfume of rum dissipated through the cabin as his mood became more foul. He was cursing an associate on the phone for being arrogant. The bromide of his dialogue filled with expletives.

"He is drunk with power-" he said before cutting himself off in recognizing that double-meaning in that phrase as he sipped from his plastic cup. I glanced at his crouched frame. He was an old Jamaican man and the coastal features of his face belied seas of roiling anger while forecasting many more storms to come. A balding pate topped his spavined frame was topped with thinning white tuffs of hair. He jabbed his left elbow for the arm rest. I let him have it and lurched forward while reading my book. Wiggling and twisting in his seat he would then bound forward to meet my shoulders. I would retreat backward and move into the space behind him, leaning back in my chair and, thus, securing the back portion of the arm rest. After a few minutes he would throw himself back into his chair bumping my shoulder and seeking real estate at the back of the arm rest, to which I would relinquish by moving forward once again. This dance carried on throughout the prolonged flight delay. By the time the flight attendant announced that we had to de-plane for a mechanical glitch, I was relieved to stretch my frame and walk around.

In the terminal I ran into another unusual man dressed with a Confederate flag shirt and jacket that seemed to spelled out a hatred for God. He was wearing shorts and his legs and neck were covered with tattoo's that seemed to indicate some sort of White supremacy. I glanced at him while walking to the food court and instinctively rolled my eyes. Mr. Confederate keep popping up in my line of sight throughout the long wait to board the plane again. I would turn around and he would be there. I would walk down a hallway and there he was standing around. I kept a poker face of nonchalance but began to have visions of punching him in the back of his head.

By the time we re-boarded we were all quite cozy and irritated. I dived into finishing a read of Lynn Nottage's "Ruined" and making my way through most of the Hindu mythology of the "Ramayana." The smell of rum wafted up from under his cushion on occasion. His phone rang again and a profanity tirade ensued to the person on the other line about the flight delays.

After all that wait the plane was docked now because of inclement weather conditions, which we would have avoided if it wasn't for the previous mechanical glitch which forced us to leave the plane. A storm brewed in the sky and began sprinkling the plane. Passengers sighed angrily and the Jamaican man next to me began cursing under his rum-noxious breath.

Our winged tormentor slowly lumbered into a long line of planes waiting to take off at LaGuardia. It felt like a rush hour line at Whole Food with only one cashier open. I did some prayers and passed out into a nap. When I awoke we were already in the air. It couldn't have been too long because the plane had not leveled out to its cruising altitude. We were in the clouds. My neighbor was curled into the window's scooped frame. I imagined he must either be quite an accomplished drinker or drunk by now. When the stewardess came around with the drink cart he ordered a Corona. I could feel the burning mixture of beer and hard liquor in my eyes. I said a Buddhist prayer and just pretended like it was a holiday.

At the end of the flight we -the squashed and disgruntled passengers of Delta- scrambled out. I found the Jamaican man again. This time he was hobbling along on a cane and looked 20 years older. I became aware of his mortality. I had labeled him an angry, drunk, old man and now he just looked old, sad, and alone. He limped along to the baggage claim as crowds pushed passed him.

I waited to be picked up while Mr. Confederate re-appeared. I thought about my previous anger and recanted it. I began doing a tong-len meditation, taking away 'his pain' and giving him 'my love' until it all became one flow of light. A calm wind seemed to float through my chest. Mr. Confederate glanced at me for a moment and seemed to give me a nod, and then he was gone. Another passenger from the plane approached me looking for an outlet for his phone. The tint of anger, which seemed to color the last few hours, disbanded into a calm pallor of clarity. I recalled the words spoken in a meeting a few days ago: a peace that surpasses our understanding.

Abdicated of anger, the king of peace now sat on the throne. And all of it happening beneath the indifferent expressionless tent of my face. It just reminded me how much all of us have going on inside and how much work there is to do on the worlds that dwell within my heart.

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