I told a story once, to a limo full of business types. We had all just touched down via private plane arriving in Maui from Los Angeles. Oh it was so glamorous when we were together.
There was champagne on board, and steak—little medallions in a burgundy mushroom sauce—salad that was wilted, and all the bags of Peanut M&M’s you could stomach. Other than the food, it was a rather mixed crowd. A bunch of people joined together by money. And Hollywood. Hollywood types love anyone with a private plane. Money loves anyone in Hollywood. Top-tier symbiosis.
There was a British-something-or-other, I’m not quite sure he had a job, strewn across the back seats, recovering from an all-night cocaine bender. A ne’er-do-well-enough. A well-known American actress, petite and blonde, and her boyfriend-slash-fiancé, or perhaps husband. They played their cards close to the chest. And we all played Scrabble. She was impressively good; I, impressively bad. “It just takes practice,” she told me, without judgment, which was even more annoying than if she had simply mocked me. I was judging me, the wind outside the plane was judging me and my apparent useless English degree from [insert impressive school here].
There was the older actor who was getting married for the fourth time. He sweat bullets the entire ride; standard fare for groom-to-be, although it later turned out he sweat bullets all the time due to a crippling addiction to pain pills that had clogged his sweat glands in certain places and not in others. His fiancé had no idea, as he had been supposedly sober at the time—“I just love dating a man in the program,” she told me about a year earlier, “it makes them so honest, on it, attentive.” Or sweaty liars, but in Los Angeles, it all seems to be about the same. They have managed to stay together. So, there’s that.
There was the man who owned the plane (how does one own a plane?) who was utterly impartial to his additional cargo. Money I’ve found, while it may not buy happiness, absolutely buys impartiality to addendums. He had no interest in anything I might be selling, though I certainly made no effort to put anything up on the block. He was cordial. I was cordial. Everyone was just so very fucking cordial. As were you, though there was most certainly a scheme in your huckster’s head. Get in good with the man who owns the plane, buy him fancy Scrabble set for fancy plane, make aloof jokes. And you did. All of those things, including the post-jet-ride Scrabble set thank you gift, that being the kind of thing you were good at.
So that leads me to us.
We were on that plane. When we were a we, which sounds like a sentimental sentence, but it isn’t. It is just a fact. When we were on that plane, we were a we, and now we are not. There was activity mushrooming even then, that we would no longer be, but clouds of smoke are easy to disregard when you’re soaring through the air, feet up, steak in mouth, at a cruising altitude of 30,000 feet. When you’re free to move about the cabin whenever you want, it’s hard to realize you’re still in such a confined space. It’s hard to realize the dull absurdity of it all when you feel like you’re passing through greatness, defying iteration.
Until the wheels hit and you’re back on the ground. Crop circles round like compasses, the sundials of the earth, become landing strips and neon airport gear once more.
It was easy though at the time, sequestering my self into two different time zones. We did travel a lot. I always left one half behind. On this particular trip, one part I left in LA, the other I brought on this glamorous vacation to Maui.
Geographically speaking, it was never really fair. There was no way for you to be in two places at once, with only half a map to boot. You never could have navigated all sides of me. Your girlfriend, the cartographer with a vengeance and a taste for awkward storytelling.
Because when we landed, I told the group the story about Ming Lo and how he moved the mountain: the businessman, the actress, her fiancé, the recovering cokehead with a skull-numbing headache, the groom-to-be. I told them all, the tale about Ming Lo and his angry wife who lived beside a big mountain that caused them no end of trouble. Shadows fell over their garden. Rocks fell through their roof. And it was always raining. “Husband,” said Ming Lo’s wife, “you must move the mountain so that we may enjoy our house in peace.”
“But how can a man as small as Ming Lo move something as large as a mountain?” I asked the hodgepodge in the car. It was a deafening silence, faces squinted as though they had aged 10 years in the minute it took me to hammer on about Ming Lo. Someone had asked about the weather, I was trying to draw parallels with children’s books. Silence.
It was the same sound you used to make when I’d read you something I really loved and you’d be looking up basketball stats on the computer. All electricity has stopped working silence. The world is black silence. You are every kind of insignificant silence.
It all sounds the same, no matter where you touch down, or what equipment you fly in on. Rocks can fall from the sky, even if there is no mountain. Sometimes you are the immovable mountain.