Figuratively, of course.
We didn’t breach a cloud to find a bearded man in a flowing white robe shaking his omnipotent fist at us like we were teenagers doing donuts on his front lawn. It wasn’t some cinematic near-death experience where a high-school wrestling coach thwarted a terrorist by putting him in a full nelson. And the pilot didn’t heroically land our faulty vessel on the Hudson River—which is good, because I refuse to swim in un-chlorinated waters.
Nope, I’m afraid my epiphany was much subtler than that. Kind of like how a parent’s silence hurts more than the back of their hand—but in a good way.
Wait, wait, wait. I’ve, “shot my wad,” as they say. For this spiritual awakening to actually mean something, it’s going to need a little backstory.
First, an introduction. My name is Larry, and I’ve been hopelessly neurotic for as long as I can remember.
Good. Now that we’ve been formally introduced, allow me to take you back six-months before my fateful flight. Join me in the waiting room of Dr. Spellman, M.D., the finest General Practitioner within my healthcare network.
Dr. Cold Spell—a nickname I gave him after a particularly frigid prostate exam—was my first line of defense against any inexplicable pain or sensation. If my stool changed color, I made an appointment with Dr. Spellman. If my nose was bleeding for no discernible reason, I made an appointment with Dr. Spellman. And every year on October, 23rd, when I’m re-eligible for my free physical, I dropped trou, turned my head and coughed for Dr. Spellman.
This visit, however, had nothing to do with irregular bowels, bloody nostrils or testicular fondling. The fear du jour on this occasion was an odd and persistent metallic taste in my mouth. It was similar to the one you get when you floss like you’re strangling your molars with piano wire, minus the bleeding and sensitivity to popsicles.
Yes, I already consulted my dentist. No, he didn’t have a clue. As a matter of fact, he gave me nothing more than a compliment on the pinkness of my gums and a complimentary toothbrush. Once again, my fate and sanity were in the poorly circulated hands of Dr. Spellman.
My name was finally called. But first, I had to pass the gauntlet of preliminary tests. I took off my shoes, stepped on the scale, lifted my tongue, rolled up my sleeve, and all of the other things one must do to see the all-knowing individual in the white coat. The only obstacle that stood in my way was the most trying one of all, the Wait of Indeterminable Length.
What would it be this time? Five minutes? Fifteen? Thirty? AN HOUR?
HURRAY! Dr. Spellman is here to tell me exactly what’s going on in my mouth—while wearing his usual you should save your money for a psychologist expression. Proceed, Dr. Spellman.
Huh? You CAN’T say what’s causing the taste? You’re PRETTY SURE it’s not brain cancer? You DON’T see the need to run anymore tests?
Join me the following morning at 3:38 AM, as I fire up my laptop while my cat lets out a hostile “meow.” Sorry, Zeus. I tried to go to sleep, I really did, but I just couldn’t get the fear of death out of my head. Unlike you, I only have ONE life.
After my dentist and Dr. Spellman offered nothing more than a shoulder shrug, I turned to the one source I knew would at least try to give me an answer; Google. Alright, Google, what’s this “persistent metal taste in mouth?”
I have a brain tumor. OR, I have a rare blood disorder only found in Eastern European livestock. OR, I can ask Dr. Plath, the Manhattan Diagnostician whose close rate is second only to Dr. Gregory House. I choose option “C.”
That ALMOST brings us up to speed. It explains why I’m heading to New York. It explains why my cat now sleeps in the bathroom. But what it doesn’t explain, is how I found God at 30,000 feet. I will now reward your patience with an answer.
There I was, enjoying a Superman-eye view of the world, when it hit me; something’s missing. Nothing tangible, like a neck pillow or an iPad. Nothing crucial, like my credit card or driver’s license. It was something I’ve never lost before. It was my sense of fear.
How, in this tiny, airborne compartment where people pop anti-anxiety medication like breath mints, am I finally at peace? The answer is surprisingly simple: it’s out of my hands.
I am 30,000 feet in the air, hurtling through Earth’s atmosphere like Zeus’s disapproving hiss, and there’s nothing I can do but sit back, chew my Terra BLUES® Potato Chips and hope for the best. As anticlimactic as it sounds, that’s how I found God.
Not a Christian God, or a Muslim God, or one of the umpteenth-thousand Hindu Gods—they can keep their talking serpents and 72 virgins. I’m simply referring to an almighty entity that’s keeping this minuscule shuttle we call Earth safely coasting through our infinite universe.
WE are suspended in spacetime, perpetuating an existence not even our greatest scientific minds can fully explain, and there’s nothing we can do but sit back, play nice and trick ourselves into thinking we have some say over our destiny.
Depressing? I say LIBERATING.
Tomorrow, instead of asking Dr. Plath for a THIRD opinion on my mysterious ailment, I’m going to wake up bright and early. I’m going to put on a comfortable pair of shoes. I’m going to walk to 189 Spring Street. I’m going to stand in a ridiculously long line. And I’m going to wait until I successfully replace this tell-tale taste with the supposedly unparalleled flavor of a Dominique Ansel Cronut. I have faith that God, whoever (he/she/it) is, will take care of the rest.
Written by: Mark Killian
Photograph by: Matt Crump