Preparing for the final flight

2014-03-16 06:00

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Last night, in the throes of my insomnia habit, I grew tired of counting sheep and turned to thinking thoughts instead.

Lying there watching the moon glide past the open curtains, I was seized by a sudden burst of affection for my pyjamas and its trademark slightly brittle embrace.

My favourite nightie is old. (Some would say ugly).

It was a gift from my mum before I embarked on my postmatric holiday many years ago.

It was a treasured item as my parents were young and poor at the time.

Back then it was scarlet with rose print, thin straps and pretty lace trim in front.

Today it is faded, stretched and extra-slinky due to its threadbareness.

It’s my happy garment, my comfort blankie apparel.

It carries connotations of family and love and evokes an emotion similar to what I feel when I smell Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue, my mother’s preferred scent.

I’d gladly die in this nightie, I thought to myself last night. (Cause of death permitting, of course. It would be weird to wear PJs on a plane, for example).

My thoughts had turned to missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

Little did the 239 passengers and crew know while stepping on to the Boeing 777-200 in sultry Kuala Lumpur last Saturday that this could well be their final flight.

Last week in Pretoria, after a day spent at court absorbing the Oscar Pistorius trial, a friend of a colleague told us how, after eight years of romantic hard luck, she had finally discovered true love.

Well-lubricated after a bottle of wine, she imparted the story with gusto: She met him on December 21.

“I swear, true love hits you over the head like a thief at night!” she shrieked. He’s getting divorced, for real! We were like: “Gurrrrl!”

I’m not so sure about love – a tricksy pony at best – but I guess it’s safe to say that death creeps up on many of us like a thief at night.

If you knew you were about to embark on your final flight – how would you prepare?

Who would you want on that plane with you, who would you want to crack a final joke with and propose a last toast with?

What would you do, what would you wear, what calls would you make?

The opening chapter of Salman Rushdie’s book The Satanic Verses poetically chronicles two men’s plunge to earth after their plane explodes: “Out of thin air: a big bang, followed by falling stars.

A universal beginning, a miniature echo of the birth of time ... the jumbo jet Bostan, Flight A 1-420, blew apart without any warning high above the great, rotting, beautiful, snow-white, illuminated city ...

“The aircraft cracked in half, a seed-pod giving up its spores, an egg yielding its mystery. Two actors, prancing Gibreel and buttony, pursed Mr Saladin Chamcha, fell like titbits of tobacco from a broken old cigar. Above, behind, below them in the void there hung reclining seats, stereophonic headsets, drinks trolleys, motion discomfort receptacles, disembarkation cards, duty-free video games, braided caps, paper cups, blankets, oxygen masks ... Mingling with the remnants of the plane equally fragmented, equally absurd, there floated the debris of the soul, broken memories, sloughed-off selves, severed mother tongues, violated privacies, untranslatable jokes, extinguished futures, lost loves, the forgotten meaning of hollow, booming words: land, belonging, home.”

Air Malaysia MH370 was last seen on military radar at 2.15am last Saturday.

Did the 239 passengers and crew see the stars fall? Did they plummet like titbits of tobacco from a broken cigar?

Personally, I’d like to believe that they’d discovered Atlantis; that they’re relaxing in unbuttoned floral shirts, sipping cocktails on a balmy, secret beach.

If only we could find the strength to sweep up the “debris of our souls” while there is still time. You know, the broken memories, the sloughed-off selves, the severed mother tongues, the violated privacies, the untranslatable jokes, the lost loves, etc. as Mr Rushdie so eloquently writes.

This brings to mind the quote by English novelist George Eliot: “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.”

I reckon I owe my mum an appreciative note.

Also, I’ll resume counting sheep now.

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