Daniel Fraser

fraser

Astronauts

Daniel Fraser

          Walk on clouds was her superpower, invisible was mine.
          “I knew you’d say something like that,” she said, “you’re so normal.” We’re sitting at those metal tables for sorting liquids that make me think of hospitals and war. Kate’s shaking for a lost foundation caught inside a T-shirt that just says No Sunset on it. I’ve got aftershave and soap and feel like a real man for the first time in months, where real basically means Martin Sheen in Badlands. I move my cigarettes to a more Martin Sheen pocket in my jacket and practice shrugging. Kate gives me foundation and shampoo to carry, along with some kind of night-time defense cream with fifty smiling cartoon bees on it. I drop them in the bag. It feels like hard evidence, a step up, starting a new level. Otherwise we’re still in the early stages: midweek pasta, kitchen roll napkins, tea lights lit in stolen tumblers, somewhere between first nerves and the comfort of time.
          We arrive early to the gate, brightened by tester-bottle makeovers and loose with morning alcohol. The sun dwells in a gray pool, settling the runway in vague light. We have our first fight over terminal Scrabble, words left unfinished, a departure to fetch more drinks. Letters jitter like ice in the bag.
          “Here,” says Kate, handing me something served in a plastic coconut. Hers looks like it has been dyed blue and has a straw shaped like a flamingo drinking through a straw. I laugh and we make a plastic “cheers” gesture. The thin sound is ludicrous in a way that feels good.
          We fumble through passport mechanics and the flap of paper printouts, holding hands to walk out across the concrete. The painted jet gleams with old rain, the sky above all rayed and puffy with cloud. Kate hides her bag like a burglar, hoping they won’t check the weight.
We examine the seat pocket literature and both pretend to vomit in the bag. I laugh at the picture of the plane going down; the man on the safety card is wearing the same clothes as his infant son.
          “Maybe they just both like green,” Kate says, looking weary. Fifty smiling cartoon bees start asking if this is all too soon.
          The engines roar. The plane tips and hauls us up into the sky. I imagine Kate walking out below us, over the fields of white and gray. I look over and wonder if she is trying to imagine I’m not there. She’s lost interest, found the man in the window seat with the blue suit and the blue coat folded up beside his blue bag.
          “That’s ancient,” he tells her, pointing to the floor, “a ruin left over from another time.”
          We feel a jolt. There’s weakness in my heart, a twitch of panicked thumps. I see birds chewed up inside the jets, pilots screaming, bodies sucked out like astronauts, crew huddled and braced for impact. For a moment I want it—yeah, bring it on!—the blue man spilling his blue guts into the blue sky. The crew make neutral expressions and neutral gestures. Nothing happens. The astronauts remain seated. There are no birds.
          “I can’t wait to get away,” Kate says, patting my shoulder and nuzzling her hair against me. The blue man quietly reads a blue book. Kate chops a loose hair with a small pair of scissors she has managed to smuggle on board. She makes a shh gesture, and we devise a complicated plan to hijack the plane. The seatbelt light goes out. The sun glows like a video game treasure caged in cloud. We kiss quickly on the lips and chew expensive peanuts. Kate says, “veins,” and walks up and down, stretching like an athlete. I twitch my feet around and buy another gin. The blue man gets up for the toilet. I imagine him taking a blue piss like a baby in a diaper advert. We crowd to the window, looking down at the patterns of sea and rock; the land and the water unrecognizable as ¬anything but shapes that hold each other’s hand.

Daniel Fraser is a writer from Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire. His poetry and prose have featured in: LA Review of Books, Aeon, Acumen, London Magazine, Anthropocene Poetry, and X-R-A-Y, among others. His poems and short fiction have both won prizes in the London Magazine annual competitions. His debut poetry pamphlet will be published by ignitionpress in Autumn 2020.