I settle into the blue leather of seat 5F and look at the stream of folks headed further back on the silver S80. A man and a woman ask for seat belt extenders. An Asian couple boards with two children, one placid, one bawling. We wait. Finally, a 45ish blond woman boards and slips into 5C. The door closes. The flight attendant says "short taxi." Another explains the oxygen mask and seat belts. The captain tells us where we are headed and we are pressed back into our seats, leaving Albuquerque Sunport behind.
We bank south away from town over nuclear weapons bunkers at the air force base and then south-southeast over a mountain range. As we turn east south east, there are huge ranches below us with sun setting behind us at roughly at 5:30. At 3:00, there is another range of far-off mountains. Frozen lakes finger lake surrounded by smaller pot hole lakes add some interest below. The sky is pale blue over gold over orange over grey, fading into the browns and reds of the earth. Another pair of lakes dots the ground as we zip along.
A road runs away diagonally at 1:30,empty of traffic. My ears pop and I notice the plane is very noisy but quite smooth. A pair of roads crisscrosses below us and the captain announces that we are at 31,000 feet and that it is 50 degrees in Dallas.
The sky goes to pink and a tiny sliver of blue with violet ahead of us and I imagine there would be very few lights below us were it dark yet. The flight attendant brings me a bourbon on the rocks in a real glass as we head further into the grey-purple of night.
I look back into the orange and pink and blue, straining to see the sun set but I have missed it again. A river snakes darkly below us and I turn to my pretzels and the drink. Lights switch on around me and I reach for mine pondering the fact that the sesame snacks are the best thing in the small silver snack bag. At least I got 2 bags. The benefits of first class.
The lights of a town come into view ahead and to the south and I make out a smaller cluster of lights on the same line but closer. Another town is further off in the dark. Then it’s suddenly dark on the ground and I see a cluster of west Texas towns and wonder if I will ever get to this part of the world. A big square town with runners of lights spreading to the north and east passes below us and I ponder how they make pretzels so impossibly small. Way off to the south east, the lights of a city spread distantly, but I can only imagine which one. Lubbock? As the country below us fades to black I turn back to my book.
The popping in my ears marks our descent and Dallas looms brightly on the horizon, a sea of yellow lights after a half-hour of blackness below. We curl to the south and the engines quiet as we descend, the bedroom communities of the Dallas-Fort Worth area blooming below us.
Only 5C and I still have our lights on, each pecking away at our precious PDAs. My lips are dry and I wish for Chapstick, but it is stowed away above in my laptop bag. We slow more as I attempt to take pictures and the landing gear comes down, Dallas coming into clear view. We prepare for landing and I shut the PDA down now as the flight attendant announces, “We should be landing soon.”
We can talk on the phone as soon as we hit the ground. And as the right wheels hit and then the left, I punch the phone up and hope the weather holds back East and that I will be home tonight.
With the engines quieter, I can hear a squalling baby behind me and wonder how it's been in the back. The taxi to C21 is interminable, various runways and taxiways passing before we finally we bump to a stop. I leap from my seat and tug my laptop and carry-on from the space above me. We file out into the drab brightness that is Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.