Of Death and Flying

by joanabagano

I’m gonna travel the world someday, I said, like every kid yearning to.

Everyday after school, my ten year-old eyes would pore over our volume of Grolier’s Encyclopedia of Lands and Peoples. I’ve read every country on it, compared GDPs and GNPs, fussed over which countries had the same major religions and languages and even tried to memorize the text on the culture subpart. It was the first volume I ever finished.

In fourth grade, I’ve had recurring dreams of flying to New York and walking on its busy streets. The dreams felt so real, more real than most dreams ever feel, and they even got me to asking my mom if our family has been there in the past (which is impossible too since we hardly had any money to even travel to Boracay).

“Mom, when I was a baby, did we spend some days in New York?”

“Oh, maybe it’s just a vision. We never went out of the country, remember?”

My mom believed that visions come in dreams and my ten year-old self, at such a young age, was too bewildered not to agree. After ten years, I started asking God to give me a discerning eye in assessing whether I should be making sense of a dream or just dismiss it as a working of my mind.

The figures of death and flying have been looming over my head for a long time now, what with Sage Moonblood Stallone found unconscious in his LA home mid-July while his father Sylvester was filming gory shoot-down scenes in Expendables 2. The thought of your son dead while you’re “killing” as much of the villains as you could somehow gave me a twisted feeling in the stomach as I tried to concentrate on watching the film. Lately I was told that a stuntman was killed during the shoot of the same film.

My youngest brother never had any violence censorship while he was in grade school and the movies he loved watching included Rambo films. Sylvester Stallone looked legitimately buff then, his dusty and rusty copters flying around Asian mountains and fields and landing beside huts filled with people who looked like my brothers and me. When I learned that Sage was found dead, my heart leaped as it always did every time a gunshot went through Sylvester’s body in the Rambo franchise.

Bang! Bang!

It must have been the same aching feeling, although I do not want to underestimate it, when Leni Robredo learned that her husband’s plane crashed to sea. I was on my way home to Baguio when a friend texted me to pray for our then DILG Secretray Jesse Robredo whose plane met an accident on the way back to Manila. God bless the soul of this exemplary leader.

It must have been the same aching feeling when Neil Armstrong landed his final breath last Friday.

It’s that aching feeling when you learn a life is lost whether you expect it or not, whether you think it’s timely or not.

Maybe it’s the same heartache when an opportunity is lost, too, as when our audition video for a travel adventure didn’t make it to the top 5.

I was at a friend’s house last night. His father works as a pilot. As a kid I thought pilots are one of the coolest people on the planet.

I’ve been flying and I never knew it — past reality into streets that I imagine to be existing in places that I want to visit. Sometimes my friends think I don’t listen to them — it’s true, because sometimes the hustle and bustle of markets I am traversing and languages I am not familiar of are so noisy inside they’re drowning what I really see and should hear outside.

I know I would still be flying until my death and the day after that and still the day after that. The encyclopedia volume stands dusty on our receiving room shelf. My fingers haven’t held it for about three years now.