Ryan flies again, these warmer days, his 10 year hiatus from the air thankfully broken with all the nerve-electrifying, pulse-quickening intensity of falling backwards into a dream and re-learning to defy the gravity of fear. He battles these things: a racing heart and the uncertainty of thinner air; a stifled helplessness descending into his throat him like a woolen ghost; a blinding desire for the permanence of sidewalks and rain.

Yet he sits, synapses afire with all the urgency of internal lightning, wondering at the future possibility of alternative modes of travel and battling contemplation about the physics of things and how planes stay in the air in the first place. This whirring contraption of aluminum and hope would transport him home in the most efficient, time-effective means possible, and that was all that kept him strapped soberly in his seat.

We’d arranged it weeks ago, my brother and I, this chart-topping surprise visit for my parents, who were bound to dissolve in tears at his unexpected appearance (so long as I managed not to do anything to ruin the surprise). They thought he was coming a week later, so the unprecedented shock on their faces (not to mention the exclamations and uncontrollable tears, hugs and smiles) on Saturday morning, right in the middle of prime-time Panera, was one of the most poignant and unforgettable family moments we quite possibly might ever have. I’m sure the people in Panera were quite entertained and confused by the demonstrative reunion (especially after we immediately left to have brunch somewhere else instead – but hey, Panera is always a fabulous meeting spot).

Mission accomplished, and then some: my parents were elated, overjoyed, and truly, utterly caught off guard, never suspecting for a fleeting instant that my Saturday morning after their anniversary surprise would include a perfectly-timed entrance by my brother. For a brief moment, the world truly stood still and I was overcome with the beauty of timelessness; how all other extraneous circumstances surrounding a life, or two, or the four intertwined orbits of an immediately family — things like state borders and medical reports, career frustration and harbored hurts — can all fall miraculously away in an eyeblink with the urgency of an avalanche and leave only the rawness of the heart left standing, love exposed in all its nakedness and perfection, shining forth in the midst of a world of spinning tops as the only true and constant nonpareil our thirsting souls will ever find.

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