Black Box

By | 2 February 2001

If the black box is the only thing that survives a plane
crash then why don’t they make the whole plane out
of it, I asked. It’s made of lead, you said, a lead plane
is too heavy to fly. And that was that.

There are benefits to being a pilot’s wife, you know. You understand
what torque is and why San Francisco is always so cold for California.
But it makes you pray. Takes away your capacity for disaster films.
Makes you recite the oxygen mask instructions like yoga chants. (If
traveling with a small child, put your mask on first)

Parachute jumpers say that the more you jump, the more your risk increases. You
don’t get any ‘better’ as a jumper, your number simply comes up one day. The more
you jump the faster it comes. I thought about that every time you left and kissed us
all goodbye in the same order as if it was a lucky charm: dog, daughter, wife.

When I was called on Sunday night, it didn’t feel like I thought it would. Didn’t feel like
     being hit
or having something drag heavily on me. It felt like someone came to take my bones away
and pulled them out one by one. Impossible to stand, impossible to sit, I rolled and pitched
uncontrollably like a ship on death waves.

I was at the crash site when they recovered the black box. I saw them put it in
the truck. I saw them close the door. I saw them walk away. I saw them talk
to women in trench coats with microphones. I saw them turn away from me.

The damn things are heavy. Well of course they are. They’re
lead. You can wrap it in a coat. You can carry it like a baby.
You can run to your car and drive panting, heart beating
too loudly in your ears to hear sirens as you disappear.

We slept
with love
now I sleep
with lead.

I wrap my white arms around the
black box where you live now and
listen to you talk to me all night.

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