Airplane Vignettes

Airplane Vignettes

Erin Moran

18:18 in Tokyo and I reactualize in row 21, seat A on Air Canada flight 004.


8:15: I wake up in Sam’s bed to the sound of my alarm. Sam’s phone still won’t charge. We wake in silence. There’s not much I haven’t already said over ¥300 wine and 7-Eleven gyoza. I begin to change, but he tells me to keep the gray sweatshirt I slept in. He kisses me once.

9:00: I carry my own clothes back to my little Kawasaki apartment and prepare to part with my little Kawasaki life. I’ve already done most of the packing. Yesterday I bought a second suitcase from the mall near the train station. I shower, change into my airport clothes and carefully fold Sam’s sweatshirt into my already-stuffed baggage. Things aren’t just things when you’re leaving.

10:30: Our friends meet me downstairs and we say our goodbyes. We got all the tears out of the way over whiskey last night. I still want to cry, but I don’t.

11:20: Sam walks me to the train station.

11:28: Sam hugs me goodbye and I black out. I think he says, “I’ll miss you,” but I don’t know for sure.

11:32: I leave him and I don’t look back. I buy my ticket from the kiosk.

11:40: The Narita Express doesn’t come.

12:10: The next train doesn’t show up either.

12:40: An announcement reveals that the trains to Narita International Airport are canceled until further notice.

12:43: I call a cab.


It’s not raining tonight and the sky is so clear and black that I imagine myself falling upwards into it.

As we walk home from our bar, I fall behind my friends and imagine a scene: Savannah and I sit in the backseat of a cab on the way home from the airport and as the sun sets over Tokyo Bay I think, that’s it. The sky alone was worth the airfare. The moon just looks bigger in Japan. When we get home, I Google the difference in elevation between Tokyo and Philadelphia. Can 100 feet bring you closer to heaven?


I get a text from Savannah.

“Hey Erin. I cried in the taxi on the way to meet my mom. I felt like you.”

I think back to that first sunset. I texted home: “I also saw my first Japanese sunset in the taxi and almost cried but I didn’t take a pic.”

And I’m glad I didn’t. Some things are too special for Instagram.


Sam’s waiting downstairs when I get back and he asks me out for dinner. We decide on the sushi place next to the train station, the one where Savannah and I used to spend hours eating roe and making plans for our futures.

We sit next to each other, but we don’t speak. We just listen to the hum of the conveyor belt and watch the little sushi plates pass by. Sam orders every type of fish he thinks he hasn’t tried yet. I eat as much fatty tuna as I can. We had planned on getting ice cream—our usual—but we’re both too full after dinner.

“A new era,” he laughs.  

胸がはち切れそうで (Mune ga hachikire-sōde). My chest is going to explode.


18:26 in Tokyo and Air Canada flight 004 is about to take off. Seat B is empty. Soon I’ll be in Vancouver, then Toronto, then Philadelphia, where it’s colder and darker and the moon’s not so big. I don’t think about what Sam’s doing now, or when I’ll talk to him next, but I do think about his apartment—the big windows and how we’d peek outside late at night to see which of our friends were up smoking cigarettes, or how we’d pull the curtains shut on Sunday mornings. I stare out at the tarmac and think about my own apartment’s view: the train tracks and the route I used to run. That stark white building that became a home.

My view now is still. I hear the roar of the engine over my own thoughts.

On the plane, I wonder: would I have stayed? It doesn’t matter now, but maybe it feels better to imagine there’s another option, an alternate reality where I stay in Sam’s bed, wearing the sweatshirt and we wake up late and meet our friends for pancakes. A world where I ask him to tell me, just once more, over the buzz of the conveyor belts. A world where I turn back instead of walking toward the train ticket kiosk. One where we run and run and keep running until we reach the park bench where we shared our first—

It doesn’t matter now. It’s time to fly. It’s 18:30 in Tokyo and the plane takes off. I look toward the ground and I don’t think, “Goodbye.” I don’t think anything.


It’s two days later and I wake up in my childhood bed and check my email.

8:08 EST (22:08 JST): “Hey Erin.”

Erin Moran