Facts And Factions
It’s all right being in this public space because I have my group around me. The thing we all know is you keep tight together and you face out into the emptiness. That way everyone’s back to back, you have a core however many come at you. It lights up all of us, binds us together, even though…
…we're unnatural bed-fellows, some of this lot are at art school. All la di dahs and scratchily bright like fireworks. Darling, darling, darling they say and it clenches my teeth but it also runs a rough finger along my spine, makes me stand slightly more erect, more certain even as my mind screams that I don’t belong with them. Fact is I do belong because of that thing more important than all the other things that should have kept us whole cities apart, let alone just streets, let alone inhaling each others’ breath, let alone…
…kissing and that is all I think about back to back when I can’t see your face, your mouth like a bridge, your eyes searching me out but I can see my least favourite brother staring at me, his face all crunched up. He isn’t sure whether to say he knows me or move right on then he’s gone. My bottom clenches because, well because, it was becoming like everyone would know what I was doing and I sort of want that…
…and I sort of don’t. Like standing on our bridge over heaving waters and thinking that I wanted to jump, to fly but I simply didn’t want to land and for it be over. Yet it probably already is over because my brother’s seen me and he’ll run like the dog’s pee he is, back to my dad, and then there’ll be hell to pay. There’ll be shaking like it could change my contents, shouting like he can impregnate my head, punching to make his points burst right through my guts. He’s afraid because he knows what might happen to me so he illustrates it with his fists. My tender bladdered guts…
…gasp as your little finger links over mine and in this moment I am inviolable. INVIOLABLE. You taught me that word. You taught me it was what I should be and anyone who said they loved me should see me as that too. Anyone who loved me should want me to learn, to grow up and out of this place quick as a weed. My dad says he’ll learn me and it’s something else entirely. My flesh shudders at the thought of it…
…but it’s all I know and I've known it for so long. You, with your group, your faction based on facts, on education are something else. Even as I stand here, back straightened, smiling although you can’t see, I believe I will be pulled away from you, taken back into that churning earth. I hear them coming with their switches, their chants, their age-old claims…
…wielding dark guns like sharks that snatch amongst us swimmers, downing those that try to keep to wallow away from them. I turn and catch your eye, but my mind sees you wallowing too in the metalled mud, reddened. Turns you into someone I dreamt about rather than a reality. I let go of your finger, step away from what I wanted to be. As they come for me I close my eyes and live in my memory of your pair of boots at the bottom of your bed, socks dropped in, ready for tomorrow.
I dream of the world where planes can no longer fly. But, I don’t want them broken or delayed. I want them grounded forever, mildewed, covered with dust, forgotten in their hangars or best never invented. Skies for the birds. No Icarus, no brothers Wright. Men are to be walkers and sailors in this world, never pilots. Perhaps a frightful god forbids gliding through the clouds. Or maybe flying is considered unhealthy, expensive or plain boring. Any good enough reason would do to bury the planes and never resurrect them.
Fact 1: Worldwide commercial aircraft fleet counts 20,000 planes.
I sigh, shifting my head towards my companions filling the departure lounge, thousands of people crammed in a small space, some excited, other nervous, all equally distracted. A perfect prey for a terrorist attack. I sigh again. There’ve been many radical plots put in motion at international airports. The flying business thrives nonetheless.
I’m still here, my chocolate-brown carry-on samsonite snuggling down my feet like a faithful Labrador. I pat it as if glancing at it wasn’t enough. I need to touch it to be certain I didn’t leave it at home.
‘Eyes often deceive the onlooker,’ my anxious mini-me’s reassure so that I don’t feel weird that I engage in a compulsion.
‘I am a mistress of my own breath,’ I murmur. ‘Hold the breath in for twenty-five seconds, then slowly release, and then draw again.’
Fact 2: There are 3300 planes in the air right now, with 660,000 people on board, and over 3 million people on average flying each day around the world.
‘How lovely it is to be able to breathe. The clean air awakens your senses; it rejuvenates your every cell,’ my new age mini-me’s chime in my ears like the tiny bells attached to a pair of sleighs. ‘Now, squeeze the earth amulet three times.’
The boarding has started. I open and shut my passport ten times to check that the boarding pass is there. Was it my row number that they called? 11, it reads. Was it 11 or 10? Check again. Here we go. I push the bag ahead of me. It rolls smoothly on the linoleum.
‘Hurry, hurry!’ my anxious mini-me’s shout, as if the plane was to close its door midway throughout the boarding.
‘Ladies and gentlemen, due to the lack of haste on your part we were forced to stop boarding, with row 10 the last allowed to board. Passengers who took their time to get to the door, we are sorry about your loss and wish you a safe journey home.’ I wonder if this is the message my anxious mini-me’s fear?
The intellectual mini-me’s know it would never happen and they just stare at anxious mini-me’s with disdain.
I will get on this bloody plane and grin at the flight attendant as if I couldn’t wait to be in the air, I decide.
‘You need to smile and pretend everything is fine. Never trouble others with your problems. It is unprofessional not to smile at the flight attendant,’ my middle-class mini-me’s add in a patient tone, they speak in a unison. None is ready to come before the crowd.
Row 11, aisle, of course.
‘You may need a toilet urgently,’ the anxious mini-me's tremble at the mere thought.
‘I never do!’
‘In the unlikely event of emergency landing, you will be the first in your row to run for the exit,’ the anxious mini-me’s insist.
‘If there’s an accident, we’re all gonna die,’ the fatalist mini-me’s throw in resigned voices.
Fact 4: Odds of being killed on a single airline flight are 1 in 4.7 million.
What I hate most about flying is the noise in my head. All the factions of my ego argue. Their discussions are often so fierce that I have no choice but to shake and hyperventilate.
‘The aisle seat choice is an attempt to take control in a situation when there’s none. Only the pilot remains in control when you’re on board the plane,’ the intellectual mini-me’s clarify in their Oxbridge accent. They are all bespectacled, sitting one by one in their professional grey suits. Tiny minions, standing side by side in groups of five or ten. They only dare to speak loud when they build a faction of like-minded mini-me’s. They are all like that.
Fact 5: In situations when we have little external control, we should apply internal control instead. We can decide how or when to react.
I swallow hard hearing the roar of the plane’s engine. I turn to my co-passengers. A middle-aged, slender, cracker-like man rests beside me, his whole attention on the Bible in his lap. He does have an ascetic look of a vicar.
‘Better the Bible than the Quran,’ the xenophobic mini-me’s eye the man’s bitten fingernails with suspicion.
By the window, a teenager with a tattoo of a black widow spider on his underarm chews on a Big Mac. The vicar presses a linen handkerchief to his nose, his lips now curved in disgust. I sniff the plasticy mayo-meat aroma.
‘I wouldn’t dare to eat junk food before the trip,’ the hipster mini-me’s turn their tiny noses. ‘So much gluten. Yak.’
‘That’s why I always choose the aisle seat. One needs to be prepared for any eventuality while flying,’ the anxious mini-me’s shake their heads two times to the right side. I discern the beginning of the Tourette’s syndrome.
‘In emergency, the Big Mac eater needs to be watched. He may jump over us and be the first to the exit,’ the competitive mini-me’s scheme.
I reach to my handbag for a Xanax.
‘Don’t choke, dear. Drink plenty of water. Sip the crystal-clear drops, savour their goodness,’ the new-age mini me’s like to have the last word.
Soon, all the mini-me’s dissolve, their nagging first turning to murmur and then to blissful silence.
I am all alone now. A single me. A me that doesn’t care. Live or die, no matter. A drugged, indifferent me will ignore the turbulence. It will sleep with one eye open. And, it will survive the trip. Most air travels end well, but if this one doesn’t, the xanaxed me won’t notice. Its large watery eyes will shut for good and then there will be nothing. No more planes. No need to fly ever again.
Fact 6: As many as 30% of people fear flying, and up to 10% of people at any point in time suffer from aviophobia.
Noun: Something that actually exists, reality, truth.
With little success I`ve been wracking my brains trying to think up a story for this title, so I thought I`d jot down my thoughts on exactly what it was I was being asked to write about; the drivel that follows should in no way be considered factual.
What is a fact? You`d think that`d be an easy question to answer right? I mean we all know what is real, what`s happened, events we`ve seen with our own two eyes, don’t we?
So here`s an interesting fact, I have a false memory, an incident from my teen years that is as real to me as any other event in my life. And the only reason I know for a fact (there`s that pesky word again) that it`s false is that it`s based on a physical impossibility.
For the memory to be true the sun, on that one day, would have to have risen in the west, when we all know the sun rises in the east, right? I mean everybody knows that. Except of course that`s not factually correct, the sun never rises or sets, not really, it stubbornly stays where it is (and that’s not factually correct either, but I`m talking in relation to us, okay? jeez) and it`s the world that’s in motion, tricky things, facts.
So what we`re really talking about is opinion versus verifiable truth.
Hah hah verifiable truth, I`m not touching that with a pole of any length, there is a 2,000 word limit y`know.
“You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.” Daniel Moynihan.
But aren’t we though, isn’t that how we really live our lives, by opinion, and what`s the difference, as far as most people are concerned between opinion and fact?
There is nothing in this world, hell this universe, upon which all of humanity agrees. And where before only a few people could disagree with you, now, thanks to the internet half the world can take issue with anything you posit.
So I decided to try to find something upon which we all can agree, (despite my previous statement) I am at heart an optimist. I could state as fact that I am drop dead gorgeous, but I know of at least one person who might take issue with that statement (My wife can be fierce cruel sometimes) so we`ll let that one slide.
The universe, we can all agree that the universe exists right. Okay there`s still debate over whether it`s a steady state or big bang universe but at least all the scientists agree it exists, right? Right? I mean come on surely… wait, what do you mean it`s a hologram.
Yes apparently a group of scientists, you know, scientists; serious people, spent too many years in university, have concluded that the universe isn’t real after all, Christ is nothing sacred.
I`m starting to wonder if I exist, I mean where`s the proof, I think therefore I am, nuh uh. Perhaps it should read, I think I think, therefore I think I think I am. What proof do I have that I really exist, that I`m actually sitting at this computer right now typing this. I can tell you one thing for sure I`m not the figment of some writers imagination, I`ve invented a lot of characters in the last few years and no-one would go to the bother of inventing one with a life as boring as mine.
But it is still possible that I, and you, are nothing more than a computer simulation, an attempt by some species somewhere to discover exactly how much tedium we can withstand before we all go postal. Go on admit it, you`ve thought about it from time to time, and doesn’t it give you a nice warm feeling in the nethers, wha`d`ya mean that’s just me, cheek.
And if we are merely computer simulations of real life does that mean we don’t actually exist, because that would mean the computer exists, and if the computer exists……. Ah crap I need to go lie down.
But before I do here`s my challenge to you dear reader, if you really exist.
Try and prove to yourself that you really do, exist I mean; go on, I dare you…………….