Beijing. 4 a.m. We are greeted by smog
and nosebleeds. Prepared to fly
another 13 hours suspended
in the jaundiced sky, strapped
in a steel bird of compressed air.
Breath in—unzip, expand, sit back
and watch the grandmas with wet towels
draped over their heads,
the babies in puffer coats, squawking.
It is warm everywhere else this winter,
yet, we are in a tundra of recycled air.
They sell canned fresh-mountain air
for countries like this. I know
because the man sitting next to us in the terminal says
he was on the verge of inventing it in the 80’s.
Oh, his middle-aged remorse!
But, hey, we’re all on the cusp
of inventing something. Aren’t we?
The canned air is made real
by the number of facemasks in the airport.
I recall all the smudged data
from the world’s largest carbon polluter
and laugh while crying into my bottle
of French Alps’ seltzer
(not in the canticle chantepleure manner
but in the wake-me- up-from- this-nightmare
kind of way). 10 a.m. Back on a plane
and back to my nosebleed, crusty and pulsing.
When we are high enough, I watch T.V.
There’s an infomercial of a Japanese woman—
iridescent and tired—selling beauty products.
She rubs on a mask and then (as time passes instantly on T.V.)
she peels off the film and looks firmer,
brighter. She repeats the process, peels
another sticky layer away, she now has wider eyes
and makeup on and highlights, her skin is lighter.
Again, she peels and a different woman appears altogether:
a blonde American celebrity, all lashes and lip-gloss
floods the screen. She peels once more
and our two-story plane is jostled
as the seatbelt announcement cuts the static
in four languages.
I’m sitting next to me a dear friend Sam, a doula
who believes there are too many people on earth,
she is on antidepressants.
“If such and such becomes president,
I am definitely moving,” she says.
Sigh. Eye roll. She is always on the brink of moving.
But, we are all on the brink of something. Aren’t we?
Gloria Muñoz’s writing has appeared in the Best New Poets Anthology, Acentos Review, Sarah Lawrence Review, Brooklyn Review, Poems2Go, and Going Om, and has been honored by the New York Summer Writer’s Fellowship. Gloria is a co-founder of Pitch Her Productions and she teaches creative writing at Eckerd College.