I get the sense I'm with my brother, walking through a touristy commercial district San Francisco, quickly, trying to get this little black boy to the hospital. He seems fine, but it's urgent that he get to where he's going by a certain time. We get to the hospital and it's enormous, surrounded by towering palm trees with white lights wrapped around them, and thick yucca plants planted in cedar mulch. We miss the correct entrance (it's labeled something other than "entrance") and walk all the way down to the far end only to realize our mistake. We go inside one of the little offices and tell the women at the desk we're lost. They're happy to draw us a map and point us in the right direction. They even call the doctor ahead so he'll know we'll be late. We use their map to find the entrance and go inside. We are running and a cop, who is busy doing something else, yells at us to slow down. So we run faster, away from the cop, taking the escalator. One of us accidentally takes the up escalator and has to jump over the handrail. We push through the teeming crowds, away from the officer and finally, according to the map, toward the area we're think supposed to be in. The hospital looks more like a big, lit-up mall with all the people surging in it, and the way it's built with enormously tall ceilings and glitterying skylights that reflect the light from the palm trees outside. We hurry through a series of well-hidden doors until we finally, with great relief, get the kid to where he needs to be. He seems very happy that we have helped him find the right place. Once securely in the right spot, we decide it's OK to leave him and head home.
Now we are on a long, flat, gravel country road. Still in California. There are modest houses along the road. It looks a lot like Tennessee. I'm marveling at how their leaves are turned slightly, but aren't dead and brittle yet. I am telling my brother to quit throwing pebbles around; the homeowners are going to get pissed and wonder who the hell we are and why we're walking down their road. We are trying to make our way back home, but we have a long journey and no way to travel but our feet. The distance from home seems enormous, but there is a great sense of freedom in it. Like we're on the ultimate road trip with very little baggage. (I don't recall carrying anything.) There are also moments where we are slogging through pits of mud and who knows what else, and I am constantly worrying about what I am stepping in. We stop periodically at rest stations to clean off. I see my brother stop and get some things out of a locker, as if he's taken a shower and is putting on his watch and some other things again. I don't remember him putting them in there to begin with.
We are on a plane, a commercial jet, being piloted by one of my bosses, SA. It's funny because you can look up to the front of the jet and see his face in one of those enormous rear-view mirrors they have on schoolbuses. The plane is full. I am bragging to the people around us, who are all chatting in a very communal way, about the way we made it out to California using only mass transit (don't know why this is a big deal, but at the time, it seemed amazing) and our feet. We are going home. The relief is palpable. We have just taken off and we can see the ground shrinking below us. There is something large and black, chunky and modular, like a train, just below us up in the air, moving slowly out of view. One woman near me yelps, "Oh, SA, look out!" At about that time, our left wing clips it. There is a sickening dip, almost like we're about to lose it. Everyone tenses up, bracing for the impact and the skid. I watch SA in the rearview as he struggles to keep us in the air. The plane bounces around for several minutes and no one is sure if we are going to live or die or just get stuck in a fiery inferno or what. I look at the guy beside/behind me. He looks a lot like the cult leader from those Strangers With Candy episodes. Which is to say he is cute. He has very light strawberry blonde hair, and he's wearing a light green shirt. We look at each other seem to recognize at the same time that we should kiss. So I lean in and we share a quiet French kiss, which is actually quite calming in the middle of an airplane crash. I am suddenly filled with feeling for this guy, and I resolve to keep in touch with him if we make it out alive. The way he looks at me makes me swoon. He has looked at me like that for the whole flight but I had not really noticed until I thought I was going to die.
The plane has leveled out but we're flying low. We realize there's going to be an emergency landing for some wing repair. As we are trying to find a suitable field to land in, I look in front of me and notice a guy sitting there who looks familiar. I get his attention. "Hi, are you Stephen Miller?" I ask. He grins. "Oh my god!" We hug and I say, "I haven't seen you since high school! What are you doing in California?"
He has kind of an odd style about him — one that's incredibly square and almost Alfalfa-like — and he doesn't really resemble the Stephen Miller I remember. "Oh, I came out here for love," he says, cutting his eyes at me. I realize he means he is gay. "Good for you," I say, hugging him again.
We are in a field now. The landing must have been ultra-smooth. There are train tracks and a busy road nearby. We have to taxi onto it, so some cops help stop traffic. My relief at not being dead is overwhelming.
Home. I am telling my grandmother what happened with the plane and she doesn't believe it. My dad comes in and has a hard time believing it too.
Who falls in love amid a plane crash anyway?