“The flight AL817 to London City airport will start boarding shortly.”
Anna closed her eyes and took another one of those deep breaths while clutching her book with already clammy hands and mentally cursing the plane, the airport, and indeed most of the city of Zurich. Seriously, why? Why go through this irrational, predictable agony every time?
I’m going to die today. I can feel it.
Her throat feels dry. There is a kiosk selling bottled water about six and a half steps away from her chair, but she feels her expensive high heels glued to the ground. Another deep breath.
Find your centre, she uselessly repeats to herself. She wills herself to become one with the neutral-coloured plastic seat she is currently seating on. This plastic chair is my centre, she thinks, decidedly. Nothing will happen to me while I’m on this plastic chair.
The amount of energy one dedicates to focus can be exhausting. Distractions usually go a long way to making you calm down in such situations. Anna looks around the boarding gate; she wonders what kind of job qualifications are sought in an airport interior designer. Was there even such a job title? “Interior designer – Kloten Airport, Zurich”. Now, that’s a ridiculous-sounding business card, isn’t it?
She scans the room to take in the characters around her. A poor, sad-looking sod just about manages to push his double-stroller to the entrance of the boarding gate in the faint hope of getting some help from the mind-numbingly indifferent airline staff behind the counter.
He doesn’t know it. He doesn’t know it yet.
A few chairs to her left, a man in a dark grey suit and obvious Hermes tie concentrates on his Blackberry while tapping one of his feet to what one assumes is playing in his obvious white earphones. A boring sight that’s become part of every airport. It’s almost like performance art. His fingers tapping the keys of a miniature keyboard, exhaling business insignificance and soon-forgotten emails never to be acknowledged. He could be on Facebook for all we know. He could be doing something entirely unimportant, an insignificant little man trying to look important. Something darkly resembling a smile flashes across Anna’s face, from right to left – it only lasts about a second. Across from her row of seats, a couple desperately tries to quiet down their two toddlers, both of whom alternate between screaming in protest for not getting what they want and running around jumping over other people’s luggage. Their creepy, tiny rubber-soled white sneakers squeak against the smooth floor tiles as they run.
Look at them. So happy. So spoiled. They have no idea this is the day we all die.
Her mobile phone vibrates in her coat pocket, clawing her back to her reality and away from thoughts of doom. But she is too afraid to reach into her pocket and answer. A single drop of sweat materialises at the nape of her neck, slides languidly down her spine. The vision of a wet line down her newly dry-cleaned silk shirt makes her cringe.
Another deep breath. Only an hour and a half and then it will all be over. Everything will be fine, really.
The indifferent airline staff reluctantly begin boarding the plane. She swipes her crumpled boarding pass on the red flashing bar code reader and walks to the plane entrance down a cold, sterile metal corridor, taking in the deafening sound of what seems like a thousand rolling cases being pulled to the same destination.
Will this torture never end?
Nearly three hundred and fifty flights before she even turned 30. That’s almost 60 flights per year since she joined the company. Impressive, yes. But still ever so nerve-wrecking.
She automatically smiled as she was greeted by more airline staff at the entrance and took a seat towards the front of the plane.
They’re getting younger and younger. They obviously have no idea that with every flight, the probability of them having a plane crash increases. It’s not pessimism – it’s basic math.
Anna opens her large black handbag and takes out a pill and a fashion magazine.
Seat-belts fastened. Ready to go. She places the pill beneath her tongue and feels it melting away in little grains of bitter, white chemicals. She closes her eyes and impatiently waits for it to take effect. Her neck muscles begin to relax. Her shoulders slump downwards. The noise, the plane moving forward at increasing speed, the wet line on her silk shirt – nothing matters now. The fashion magazine slides off her lap and onto the carpeted floor.
Anna is finally asleep. At least for now.