Three years ago, I was on an airplane for the first time in my life. The reason was something to do with the parents of my childhood friend, demanding and forcefully inviting me over to London, to visit and play with their daughter.
In this world, there are things we label as fateful; things like being forced on a plane without any regard of my own will. Namely, Flight MS 901 of Maiden Atlantic, departing from Narita Airport and heading toward Heathrow Airport. This all happened during spring break, right before the welcoming ceremony of the new semester in middle school.
That day, I had two really displeasing things on my mind.
The first thing was the reality that I suffered from terrible acrophobia.
My eyes stared at the unimaginably dull and thick shadow underneath the plane. The idea that something this bulky and cumbersome is able to glide through the sky was just unimaginable. No matter how I thought about it, I couldn't grasp that concept. And the dream I had last night had been an absolute nightmare. It was something along the lines of me failing the school entrance exams, or me stepping off the side a sheer cliff, or the space-ship I was riding in burned to hell in the upper atmosphere - nothing but nightmares about falling. After being delayed by the troublesome luggage check-in, and then further hassled by customs over my documents, and sitting myself down in my designated seat in the plane, I was in the mood and ready to throw myself out of the window and just die.
Another reason for my depression was that my childhood friend, Misao, happened to be my traveling buddy sitting next to me in a wretchedly foul mood.
Minakami Misao. Born under Gemini. Blood type AB. Even though she had been exuberant about visiting her parents, after seeing my face in the morning, she started acting suspicious and midway through the flight. I could tell she was burning up with irritation. I'd try to ask her what was wrong, but she wouldn't answer. Was saying "It's nothing out of the ordinary" such a terrible reply when she asked what I thought about her outfit earlier? But as everything from her hair to her coat was the same as any other day, it wasn't like I could have said anything else. Even though the two of us had always been close since kindergarten, I still have no idea just what Misao is thinking.
When I called to her, she would simply turn to me without a word. Her eyes, big and fair as they were, would always be half-way closed as if she was doing it on purpose. Misao was definitely something of a beauty and, because of that, it was unusually scary when she was angry.
And it was this scary and angry Misao that now sat next to me in the aisle seat furiously crunching down on chocolate.
"About that chocolate... I bought it... as a present for your parents..."
"So what?" was her reply.
"Uh... nothing. Ah, did you see the girl sitting in the seat right in front of us?"
"She's drop-dead gorgeous, you know. She's probably just a middle-schooler, but she's tall."
"So why should I care?"
"… I'm thinking she is a performer. Her legs are long... her torso is probably the same."
"Idiot, pervert, lecher, sexual harasser." she snapped.
And all the other passengers turned back toward me. Even the beauty in the seat in front of us was throwing her glances toward us and laughing. I was getting increasingly more distraught and Misao's irritation too seemed to worsen.
The plane undocked from the boarding bridge and then slowly rolled onto the runway. My seat by the window was a lot higher than I had previously imagined and when I looked outside at the scenery, I remember feeling my head swimming in a haze of light dizziness.
I turned to ask Misao about switching seats when it finally hit me. Strapped around the collar of her coat was a necktie I had never seen her wear before.
"Hmm? Misao, could that outfit be...?"
Misao's furious chocolate-wolfing movements froze.
She slowly looked at me and, in a purposefully curt tone, said: "Yes, it's the middle school uniform. I want to show it to Dad and Mom..." Misao stopped there and studied my face as if she was expecting something. From my past experience I knew that if I gave the wrong reply at this critical juncture, I was going to be in a world of trouble.
"Umm... yeah! It suits you, it definitely suits you." I wondered if this is going to be good enough.
A smile lit across Misao's face. In a playfully cute gesture, Misao offered me back the half-eaten piece of chocolate. "Jeez, it took you long enough! Here, I'm giving it to you."
"Well, this is the present I had bought for your parents. Besides, there is just no way I am supposed to know what you're wearing under your coat. Anyway, I really just want to switch seats..."
"What's wrong? Wait... are you afraid of flying? How come?"
"You already know I'm afraid of heights! The plane is flying, isn't it? If it's flying, it has to come down, right? My older brother told me that planes accidents happen a lot during take-offs and landings."
"It'll be alright. It's not just going to fall out of the sky, you know."
Misao smiled; her expression soft and gentle as she squeezed my frigid hands. Her hands were small and warm and a sensation of familiarity and comfort welled up within me. I would come to reminiscence, many a time after, the warmth cradled within and nestled between our embracing palms. Many times. Yes, many, many times.
"-It'll be alright. I'm by your side." She was right. Halfway.
That day, Flight MS 901 of Maiden Atlantic crashed into the ocean.