I meticulously go over the pre-flight checklist. After so many years of doing it the entire procedure is second nature to me. I hop in.
I push the mixture control, turn on the master switch, add the primer and turn the switch to fire the engine up. The rumble from the single engine sounds as comforting as it always did. I push on the throttle and my Cessna Skyhawk taxis gracefully over to the runway. Once I am up in the air I feel a sense of relaxation. I always do. I feel I belong here, up in the air, watching the world below get tinier and tinier as I gain altitude.
Santos. I remember meeting Rosana for the first time. We were seated next to each other in a full flight headed from Santos to Brasilia. Someone was whistling as he was loading his luggage into the overhead bin.
“Uh Oh,” I told her in a hushed voice. “We have a whistler in the house. The next worst thing to a crying baby.”
“I would think a beer hangover would come close?” Rosana said. I raised an eyebrow. “Beer farts can be deadly,” she explained.
By the end of that flight I was well on my way of turning from a tourist to a local.
I fly over my neighborhood. I think I spot my home. It’s been my home in Sao Paolo for the past 14 years. So many memories over the years. Family gatherings. Backyard parties. My favorite memory is playing soccer with my son, Denis. Futbol, dad, he would insist. He had a knack for the sport. Must have come from his mother. Once he kicked the ball so hard I couldn’t catch it in time. It smashed into a window. We frantically drove to the neighborhood hardware store, bought a replacement window and installed it. We cleaned out all the broken pieces of glass. We thought we left no evidence behind but can you really hide anything from a woman? Rosana knew the instant she walked into the house that something was wrong. And our little boy was so guilt ridden he cried and spilled it all.
Over the private airport in Araraquara. My first flight in my own plane had been from Santos to here. Fabio was with me for that and many of my flights. It was Fabio who insisted on the name. I picked The Flying Arete. I explained to him that Arete was a Greek deity and she personified excellence. Fabio was appalled. The plane is masculine, he exclaimed. Then call it The Flying excellence, I said. I said I don’t care about the name. But since then I have always called her The Flying Arete. Not to Fabio. To him the plane was The Flying Excellence.
I am somewhere over Passos. Middle of nowhere. When my brother from New York had come to visit he was robbed in the middle of nowhere. He had asked me to come with him but I had said I would not be able to free myself and that he would be fine by himself. His car had broken down on a deserted road. Some locals driving by offered to give him a ride to the nearest town so he could call me. They did that. They also beat him up and robbed him.
His knee hurts to this day when he runs. I don’t think he ever forgave me completely.
I am close to Belo Horizonte. Maybe Rosana is home. Her home. Maybe she is eating her mother’s cooking. I was already in love with latin food when I met her but after one bite of Rosana’s mom’s shrimp bobó I felt like I was in heaven. Rosana, you are a keeper and your mom even more so, I had said. Her dad had grown extremely fond of me when he tasted my caipirinha. He said I made it better than the natives.
I want to turn back the years. Back to when Denis was still in our lives. Our lives. Now it’s her life here and my life worlds away. We had both never been able to function normally after Denis. I feel both jealous and a sense of relief that at least she has family to look after her.
I check the instrument panel. Fabio had said I should upgrade to a twin engine. I didn’t ever want to and now even if I did I can’t. Thanks, you bastard, I say aloud to Fabio. We could have made it big together. I know I have the necessary skills to make a successful bar menu. You have contacts with the locals. I thought we both had the smarts to succeed. Maybe I don’t. You proved that. You had to get greedy, didn’t you? Kicking a fallen man. Did that give you satisfaction?
The engine coughs and sputters as it searches for more fuel to burn. At 10,000 feet this means she will glide for a further 12 miles before meeting the arid hills below. Arid and lifeless. Very fitting, I think sardonically. My last thought is for The Flying Arete. Sorry babe. I pat the instrument panel and let my head rest back.