That day at the airport on the way to my hometown best friend’s funeral, when you couldn’t keep the newsfeed of the fiery midair collision out of your phone, even as you waited to board.

I tried to choose my seat wisely, but it was 5 a.m., and I hadn’t been home in twelve years, that suburban Ohio life not focusing: I had remade myself into an Angeleno who hung out not at the local dive bar with high school friends, but at a coffee shop in Los Feliz, an exhibition at the Getty. I slumped into a window seat when a woman and her teenage son eyed me.

I sank deeper into my seat and put on headphones, but she had me.

“Good morning!” She smelled clean and crisp, like hotel soap.

My polite nod only encouraged her. “Too bad, isn’t it? About the pilot.” She pointed to her phone’s image of the two jets colliding in midair. In the next frame, a young aviator smiled at the camera, a helmet under his arm. “So young. So handsome.”

She leaned in, whispering, “He had a bad feeling. He didn’t want to go.”

I knew the images: here he was, alive, about to climb into his cockpit. Still alive as he began his final descent with contrails blooming flames. The news stories began with the planes engulfed – images out of order. That upset me yesterday as I packed.

“Where are you headed?”

“Home,” I said, but it tripped on my tongue. We’d tried to keep up through the years, but texts and calls were no match for the pull of hometown husbands and the needs of small children.

“Where is that?”

But I backtracked. “He didn’t want to go? The pilot?”

“No, he told his wife something felt wrong. He tried to stop it.”

A week before she died, I had a strange cosmic nudge to call my friend, a sense to check in after so much radio silence.

I didn’t call. When I heard that she was gone, I couldn’t let myself grieve, as if it was my fault. I’d known, just like the pilot.

The lady patted my hand. Soon she was snoring.

It would be a long time before we landed. I closed my eyes, but I kept seeing the pilot, and he was smiling at me, waving one last time as he took off into the perfect blue of morning.


Sharon Lee Snow

A Pushcart nominee, Sharon Lee Snow earned an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of South Florida. Her short stories, creative nonfiction, and poetry have been published in Jelly Bucket, South 85, Gulf Stream, and other journals. Connect with her on Twitter and Instagram @sharonleesnow and her website

Listed at Duotrope
Listed with Poets & Writers
CLMP Member
List with Art Deadline
Follow us on MagCloud