The turboprop thrums outside the window; the blade tips churn feet from my head.
As we boarded one of the crew slowly inspected each of the prop blades with a flashlight, presumably searching for evidence of impending failure, of nascent fissures, signs of metal fatigue.
I sat and imagined what that kind of failure would mean. How the blade would instantly and explosively detach, fling itself toward the cabin, shred the aluminum like vellum and spray debris into what would in a moment become unrecognizable as my face. In the moments that would follow, I would quickly die from blood loss, diving toward the earth in this riveted coffin, lobotomized and dully unaware.
I’m not sure what it was about flying into LA tonight, but I had the swelling sense that I had never before seen anything so beautiful in my life. It being LA, that clearly wasn’t the truth, but there was something different about how I saw this descent: I had never seen something so ugly look so beautiful. I’ve always been awed by altered scales, by the unceasingly remarkable disparity between human settlement as viewed from above and as viewed through living it, but I’ve also always viewed these expanses of development as blights, as ever-expanding scars, hiding the real beauty and possibility of the soil and water underneath.
Well tonight it was different. Broad constellations of light created massive, divine continents divided by arteries of headlights and taillights that flowed like surging platelets. At points these stars are shrouded by miniscule clouds that hug the ground in small huddled groups. The stars expand outward, climbing into blackness at the foothills, drowning in the Pacific.
I watched in awe as the halogen white and arc-sodium yellow stars shifted and burned. My view at once obscured and illuminated by the polished aluminum cladding of the engine, the pulsating red underwing bulb, and the immaculately spinning propeller…carrying me home.