By Jennifer Spencer
Elsa had always wanted a flying lesson, not to become a pilot or anything, just for the experience. It was the idea of being up in the air with her own hands on the controls, the steering wheel thing, gliding through the clouds. She doesn’t know anything about planes and she has no idea how it might feel, or what sensations she will experience when she gets up there, she just knows that she has to find out.
She drives through the outback with the jeep’s windows wide open with the wind in her hair and imagines, for some reason, that it would be like this up in the air. Until now she hasn’t thought much about what type of plane she will have her flying lesson in. She reaches into the dash and feels for her flying lesson coupon for the 10th time since she left Melbourne.
“I know flying is your greatest ambition,” said Joe just two days ago, handing her a coupon for flying lessons. “You can check this off your bucket list.” But he also knows that she will never use it because flying is also one of her greatest fears.
But here she is just two days after her 33rd birthday armed with just her birthday coupon and a courageous smile driving slowly towards the flying school. In the distance she can see an orange wind sock and her earlier high turns to tummy butterflies. That’s ok it’s just excitement, anticipation, having butterflies isn’t the same as fear.
Elsa feels lucky that she’s about to marry such a wonderful man who knows her so well and knows her loves and hates as well as her fears and ambitions.
At work Joe is also thinking about Elsa. ‘Of course she’ll never go through with it but at least she will have had the opportunity’. Joe knows how nervous she can get and how afraid she is of heights and knows that nervous women afraid of heights do not get into the cockpits of light aircrafts, no matter how experienced the flying instructor is.
Elsa looks down at the speedometer and realizes she has slowed down to 42 miles per hour. She thinks about how basic the controls of the jeep are and wonders what on earth the ones in the plane are going to be like? She’s a little concerned now that she knows so little about the controls in a plane or even what the steering wheel thing is called. She takes a deep breath and reminds herself that the first part of the lesson is taken up with learning this stuff so she’ll know all about it soon enough.
The lesson is at eleven a.m. but there is no way she’ll go through with it, thinks Joe as he stands looking out of his office window. Its not that he is sexist it’s just that he knows all too well that Elsa is the type of person who will long for something she doesn’t have; she always seems to think that the grass is greener on the other side. They had talked about flying lessons in the same conversation that they had talked about having children. So when she realizes that flying is not really something she wants, that it’s just wanting something that she doesn’t have, then she’ll realize that it’s the same for having a baby too.
Elsa can see a runway in the distance and the ‘butterflies’ turn to sickness. She notices that she has slowed to 28 miles per hour.
Joe reflects on the child-free life he always hoped of for their future; friends, barbeques, holidays, and so on. The kind of lifestyle their parents appreciate now that their children have finally left home. Well why wait? This lifestyle is something they don’t have to give up if they don’t have children. Elsa will see this.
Elsa watches a tiny plane land and thinks about the size of the plane that might be waiting for her. She turns right at the sign for the flying school then comes to a complete halt at the gates. By now she’s feeling very nauseous.
Joe looks out of the window and watches as a plane passes and is quietly confident that he and Elsa would soon be on the same page about their future.
Elsa begins to feel for the coupon again and is suddenly frantic, it’s gone! She searches the back of the jeep, yes it has gone! She realizes that the coupon must have blown out of the open jeep window. Her nausea subsides. ‘They probably have a record of the sale,’ she thinks but isn’t sure whether they will insist that she present the coupon.
At dinner that evening, Elsa and Joe enjoy their lovely peaceful meal with a bottle of wine and talk about the day’s events as they always do. Elsa describes her flying experience to her wonderful husband-to-be. Joe wonders how many more child-free meals there would be for them as Elsa tells him about the sensations of taking off and how she felt gliding through the clouds holding tight to the steering-wheel thing.