Tuesday, February 8, 2011
“Hell is hot, isn’t it?” I shouted to Peter while hurrying through the Paris airport. I thought how hell happens in the “in-between times”: the times when you don’t know if you will make it or not—those times between the biopsy and the result, between the labor and the birth, between the knowing whether you are loved or not. We were in-between planes, and yet I had been looking forward to the flight back to the States with Peter. We were in the in-between time of knowing if we could love again or not, and I felt in my bones that by the end of this flight we would know. We would have a chance to talk, and after 5 years of divorce, of silence, who knows? We might have changed just enough to bridge the in-between.
I glanced again at our tickets as we walked down the aisle: “Isabelle Bailey: seat 15 E Peter Cocroft 15 F.” He had the window seat, I had the aisle. We were the last to board the plane with only 5 minutes before take-off. Thank God the air-conditioning would be on soon.
I pulled out my laptop and opened it to my chart for today, July 21st. Transiting Mars opposing my Venus; Mercury squaring Uranus at this very hour. Hm…it didn’t look the way I wanted it to look. As astrologers say, it’s not “auspicious” for flying when Mercury, Uranus and Mars aren’t in harmony. And I knew that Pluto, god of the underworld, was squaring off to my Libra Sun—my basic identity. Sigh. I closed the screen with a snap, shut my eyes and listened as the engines struggled to turn over. The overhead light bleeped on and off.
Peter pulled out a book to read. I snuck a look at the title: “Truth is a Pathless Land; Krishnamurti.” So he was still into that stuff; the “be awake and aware philosophy” that I wasn’t so sure of—it paradoxically smacked of both atheism and spiritual pride. I don’t know, I guess there was goodness there too, but it felt cold. I wasn’t going to dwell on that now or even mention our differences. I closed my eyes and waited. It was 15 minutes past take off time and I listened to hear the reassuring sound of the engines starting up . Could they have overheated on the tarmac?
I caught the steward passing by. “Is there any chance of getting the air turned on?” I asked, in my most pleasant, but transparent voice.
“I’m sure as soon as soon as the captain can do it, he will.” If the steward was a dog, he would have bitten me, or at least snapped.
Peter waved his hand as if to quiet me, to get me to calm down. He closed his book and his eyes. I tried not to see that as being dismissive, knowing that Peter was not always aware of how he affected others. He meant no harm. I stared at the curling gray wisps of hair on his forehead and saw again that face with the same serene kind look I had always loved. And then I looked away—what would he have thought if he saw me staring at him now—a woman with sweat running down her face in rivulets, smearing her eye make-up into dark raccoon eyes. I wondered if he could still see the wide eyed yearning in my eyes, the woman he had once married. But he didn’t look. The eyes of this menopausal woman were the same, though the blonde hair was now short and cropped rather than long and loose.
I looked instead at my hands and stared at the finger where my wedding band had been. I had left the finger bare, but had bought myself an onyx ring for the other hand; a ring that recognized my new commitment to myself. I was trying to take good care of myself these days.
I looked down at my computer, and put it under the seat. Even it was making me hot.
Peter’s eyes remained closed. It was a bit annoying, really—he could at least ask me how I was feeling. “So Peter,” I finally whispered, “What do you think? I mean, is this plane going to take off?” I wanted to say more, but this was at least a start. He opened his eyes as if he was coming out of a deep trance. I couldn’t help but think how people with a lot of Neptune-Pisces energy in their birth chart seem to be able to block out this world and retreat to another planet. He was one of those, but I was not going to sit here alone in silence.
“What?” he asked. He knew I was disturbing his attempt to escape and that I did it anyway. The attendant interrupted us: “We’re being delayed, the pilot has suggested we offer you complimentary snacks or beverages, as we may be stalled for a while longer.”
“For how long?” I asked.
“Oh not long, I’m sure.” The attendant smiled, shrugged and lifted his eyebrows wickedly. I was sure he was gay, and wondered if he felt powerful seeing certain people like me squirm. I shouldn’t make sweeping judgments like that, as I hated people making judgments of me as an astrologer.
“I’ll have a white wine with ice, and what about you Peter?” He shook his head no, and pulled out an eye pillow and put it across his eyes.
I touched his arm. “Peter….” Let’s be present for each other now. Let’s make the best of it.”
He nodded his head yes, but said nothing. He didn’t take off his eye patch. “You know,” I continued, “you could take a lay-over in Boston for a few days before going back to San Francisco…we could spend some time together.”
He sighed. His hand reached over for mine and tapped mine as if to calm me down. Then he refolded his hands on his lap. He had no rings on his hands but they were more wrinkled than I remembered.
I sipped my wine. We were now seriously delayed. I could feel the mood in the cabin and it wasn’t good. People began talking more, but not us. Another ten minutes passed. I finished my wine. Peter’s forehead was dripping with sweat.
“What? What do you need?”
“I don’t know…. to talk?” I paused. It was hard to make small talk in hell. “Do you believe in love still?”
“I don’t know Isabelle. What does it say there in the chart?
I gritted my jaw. “About love? About us? The plane?” “I thought you didn’t believe in astrology, so why are you asking me about it now? Is that sarcasm or do you really want to know?” I tried to take a deep breath. “I’ll tell you-- things don’t look so good right now.”
He didn’t say anything. Perhaps he was pondering the questions. I ventured a solution: “If you wouldn’t label me and my work, and put me in a box of sorts …..if you chose to see me as not knowing all the answers, or trying to control…well, we could have a chance. I’m simply trying to survive…and trying to reach you, Peter. I’m sorry, maybe I’ve done it poorly.”
“I know, Isabelle, I know….” The engines started up again and then stalled with an irritating whine. Their noise made it almost impossible to talk.
I raised my voice. “Do you still believe in God? I asked. “I mean, despite all the rational reasons to the contrary, do you believe that God—that love--can still survive in this world—I mean, do you believe that we could be together? That you and I could have a second chance?”
The engines let out a terrible noise. Peter grabbed my hand. He looked suddenly terrified and I could see he was barely breathing. The sweat poured down his face. I brought his hand up to my cheek and moved his fingers across my lips.
“Oh my god, Isabelle….there aren’t any atheists in foxholes.”
Then he leaned over towards me and looked at me as if for the first time. His other hand reached for mine. Sometimes Peter wasn’t good with words, but I knew in that moment, he was willing to give us a try again. The dangers around us were deep.
But it wasn’t his voice I heard just then, instead it was the intercom: “Please leave the airplane immediately; do not bother to take your overhead luggage..we will get it to you. Exit immediately to the front of the plane. Attendants will be here; do not delay; when you are de-planed we will reroute each of you to other planes that will take you to your final destination point. The attendants will make sure that all families traveling together will stay together on route to your destination.”
Nobody panicked, but to say we walked out quickly was too mild. We moved in a hot steaming roll, and Peter was shuffled off to one small plane and me to another. We weren’t a family, and so Peter Cocroft and Isabelle Bailey were each going home separately. The old craft was overheated and dangerous, but who knew the future? I certainly didn’t know, but I felt hope as I pondered all the possible ways that Pluto, Venus and Mars might play out in my life now. Maybe even Uranus could be kind. ~
~elizabeth spring email@example.com