I like to have the window seat while on a flight. Not because I want to look at clouds that resemble rabbits or evaluate the world from a 30,000-foot perch, but because I want to watch others as they do the same. I like to ask myself, as sunlight streams through the window and illuminates their profiles, what they’re thinking of when they look to the clouds, the sun, the thousands of rivers and streams creating and destroying life below them. Of the people they left behind, where they’re going, what they anticipate. I think of why they look away so suddenly, as if they had maybe ventured too close to those hopes and fears that we can only strangle and dispose of while on solid ground.
I think of my own father, who I have just left behind, and under which salmon-colored cloud he might be at this precise moment. I think of the stories he told me during this visit—of the long walk he took when he found out his mother had terminal cancer, of my own mother’s incredible kindness, of his favorite nature preserve where birds consider him to be a peculiar, hairy branch on which they might rest. I think of my impatience, my sighs and my disinterested responses that ebb and flow while thinking of someone else, somewhere else. And then I look out the window, at the sun sinking deeper into the clouds, at the golden eyelashes of the man in front of me, and I become so incredibly sad and disappointed in myself. And then I look away, too.