39,000 feet

Lost manuscript by vagabond writer


He was lost. He took planes all over America. He became an expert on airports. He invested such large sums in airline travel he figured he must own a piece of the sky, or rather pieces of the sky — thin, high corridors of illusion between real cities; timeless strips of fantasy between pestilence and death. An ethereal investment to be sure; other men had pieces of the rock.

He flew back and forth across America like an insomniac pacing his room. Planes of all sizes and colors transported him north and south and east and west in an odyssey that skirted heaven and hell. He was searching for many things: Success, fame, the perfect woman, a new identity, freedom, independence, truth, cunning, honesty, immortality, a secret Swiss bank account, a cabin in the woods, a house in the desert, a job in a lighthouse, a penthouse in Manhattan, a pad in the Hollywood Hills, unlimited credit, inner piece, a new life, a tolerable death, immortality, and sometimes nothing more than a perfectly clear sky. 


At rare moments of clarity, perhaps at 39,000 feet, he felt he was on the verge of a breakthrough, on the edge of a great discovery about life and himself. Sometimes, he would doze off and suddenly awaken with the startling notion that he had heard the voice of God — not so much a voice as a perception of the idea of God, an ephemeral, wraith-like presence in his mind, a fleeting brush with fate, the briefest touch by destiny, a speck of understanding, a hint of cosmic truth that vanished as fast as it had appeared, but left him with, at that perilous moment of waking, an unmistakable impression of the meaning of life, and specifically, his purpose in that life, agonizingly elusive but sufficiently noticeable to excite him with new motivation and direction.


Desperately he would scribble down his ethereal notes at the very moment they dissolved into nothingness. But when he tried to pursue the clues, to pin them down, to put them together, bits and pieces of his mind flew off in different directions at increasing speeds and higher altitudes, and then he no longer believed he was on the verge of a great breakthrough, but on the edge of insanity. 

At the end of two years his mind was totally fragmented. On a physical level there was more chaos. He was broke, bouncing checks and exploding credit cards. His personal stuff — books, manuscripts, letters, documents, photographs — were crammed into suitcases, briefcases and footlockers in girlfriends’ apartments, and bus and train station lockers in cities and towns across America—

[Manuscript abruptly ends.]

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