The Ride

by Alicia Dietz

It was clear blue and 22.

You couldn’t describe it any other way.

A decade of flying forced you to become a novice meteorologist,

to pay attention to moon cycles,

sunrise, and sunset.

To EENT and cloud ceilings.

That a small differential between temperature and dew point

caused fog.

That winds at altitude

affect your burn rate.

 

And know that you are part of a community.

Even now,

four years later,

and probably forty after that,

you note the position of the moon

and know that it will be 15 degrees lower in an hour.

And the underside faces of leaves.

Drive past a flag,

or even –

ironically, a windsock,

and determine which direction you would have landed.

 

But you’re on four wheels now,

not three.

The only thing overtop you is a worn-out canvas –

a bikini top –

that covers only the front seats.

 

And this top flaps in the wind.

Passive.

Affected by the wind.

Not active.

Not affecting the wind.

Not working in unison with three others to produce lift.

These wheels,

they stay on the ground.

 

Leaves and twigs,

remnants of rain water and splashes of mud

are your passengers in the back.

Even the maple’s occasional propeller seeds come along for the ride –

and you chuckle at the irony.

 

You can only fit two people in the back –

the back of that beauty

of your ’95 red

Jeep Wrangler.

Not the 11 that you could in that mammoth –

the back of that beauty

of your ’88 OD green

UH-60A.

 

Now, you can pick up two friends

and go where your hearts desire.

Spend all day along the river

or in a museum.

Then you idly chat over drinks at a restaurant patio

and drop them back off

at home again.

 

Like those before

that you flew along the river

or overtop a museum.

That you,            

not so idly,

chatted with over the intercom

and dropped back off

at home again.

 

Yet too,

unlike those before.

Those who you dropped off

with their rucks fully loaded,

with their radios and medical kits,

rations and munitions.

That you dropped off

with their maps

and bibles

 

Unlike those before.

Those who you dropped off

never to pick up again.

 

It’s been hard for you.

Hard to find two people,

even two,

to fill the void where those 11 sat before.

Maybe because you weren’t even trying.

Maybe because it was easier –

easier to close the door,

zip up the sides,

chock the wheels,

and let the battery die over the winter.

 

But when the seasons changed,

when the earth tilted to enjoy the company of the sun,

you knew it was time to fly again.

So you brushed off that bikini top,

and unzipped the sides.

You welcomed the company of the leaves and the twigs

And those little propeller seeds.

And you went for a ride.

 

The breeze brushed up against your face

and you put your hand out,

cupping it up and down

forming that airfoil that would fly.

The same airfoil you formed

in the backseat at the age of five

without a care.

Not a single one.

Now you formed it as a way to let those cares

spread their wings.

To fly a little farther away.

 

Up ahead you see another Jeep,

And as you pass, he gives you a wave.

You wave back

and smile.

And sink in the warmth and comfort

and let it wrap around you.

And know that you are part of a community.

A community

different from the one before.

 

But one that will wave

and welcome you.

As long as you pull out of the driveway

and go for a ride.