There are ten faces smiling in the photograph- and a few more faces that are looking away or fast asleep. The photo was taken inside the plane- by the attendant before we began our flight across Alaska. The ten smiling faces are my teammates from AmeriCorps, in route to our next work assignment in Barrow, Alaska. Though I am smiling, anyone who knows me can tell from the picture that I am nonplussed- sure that we will die in the air today.

Why am I on a flight that I’m sure will kill me with nine other carefree adventurous people who are having the time of their lives while I panic? That’s a question I still haven’t answered, but I’m glad I was on that plane.

I remember my face turning red when I was called on in class.

I remember the smell of summer night on skin and running barefoot as a kid.

I remember my parents making us wash our feet before bed.

I remember wanting to challenge myself.

I remember not feeling like enough.

I remember feeling like I could do anything. And also doing nothing.

I remember when I decided to start taking action. In all moments.

I remember how I’m still that scared kid.

I remember being laughed at for having sweat marks under my armpits.

I remember my first cup of coffee with a friend. And skipping school to drink it.

I remember being in marching band, and trying to impress the older kids.

I remember a cockroach crawling on my friend during our high school lunch hour.

I remember thinking of things and not saying them.

I remember washing my hands until they were red and chapped.

I remember begging anyone around me to catch me breaking rules. Because I was done not being seen.

I remember how I slept all afternoon today after bailing on the prison librarian.

I remember being unsure of the difference between challenge and torture.

I remember the smell of my cat’s head, and the feeling that I don’t need to have it all.

I’m wearing his shirt, and both our skin is sunburned. He’s carrying his life in a bag over his shoulder, about to fly across the country. I’m helping him carry his mandolin- and we’re both smiling at the camera- a picture taken by a passerby. Later that night I will go back to my California campsite while he eats pretzels in the air over the Midwest.

We’re both wearing the same black steel toed work boots that are a little too clunky to be bool. On the drive to the airport I play him a song that speaks to my fear of flying. I wonder what he fears in that moment.

I also wonder why I want to know that.

Originally published at

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© Copyright 2018 Annie Windholz

midwestern librarian, writer, activist. subscribe —

midwestern librarian, writer, activist. subscribe —