“Should We Lose Cabin Pressure” is my first story. I wrote it in 2006, during my second semester of grad school at the City College of New York. At the time I was studying under author/professor Mark Mirsky. It was the first of two fiction workshops we’d have together.
Technically other stories came before “Should We Lose Cabin Pressure.” Like when I was an undergrad at NYU I typed out a short story for one of my creative writing classes about a man whose wife leaves him and he ends up at a bizarre zoo, where he watches a gorilla fuck a woman. Mid-coitus, he (the man) imagines that the woman on all fours is his wife, and somehow that resolves things for him (not the gorilla).
At the time I was proud of the story and brought it up in conversation with a pretty, melancholic girl I sat next to on one of NYU’s shuttle buses, which ran from campus to our dorm on Lafayette Street. It was the end of the semester, and before I cleared out of the dorm for summer, I slipped a hard copy of the story under her door.
After that I never saw or heard from her again.
I wrote other stories after “Hombre o Bestia” (previously titled “Gorilla and His Swings”)—I even wrote a novel called Before Burial before I graduated from NYU (Gallatin, class of 2004)! But it was with “Should We Lose Cabin Pressure” that I think my voice started to develop. It came on like puberty.
A fear of flying. An awkward sexual experience with a Vietnamese girl from Minnesota. A trip to Argentina with my father. A grandmother with Alzheimer’s disease. I wasn’t sure what to do with these elements rooted in real life. But something was telling me to bring them all together. Somehow they made sense.
Often Mark talked about danger in literature. But the danger he spoke of had nothing to do with car chases or fights at the edge of a cliff. The way he explained it—and I’m paraphrasing—is that:
There are stories that you’ll tell anybody.
Then there are stories you’ll only tell those close to you: family, friends, lovers.
Then there are stories you won’t tell anybody—the secrets you’ll keep to yourself.
Oh but then there are stories you don’t even want to tell yourself.
Those are the dangerous stories.
Mark was most interested in dangerous stories. And eventually I realized that I was too.
So, without even realizing it at the time—I really had no idea what I was doing—“Should We Lose Cabin Pressure” turned out to be my first attempt at danger.
(In 2006 it was titled “Love on the Wings.” No one liked that title, so I changed it to “Monsters on the Wings,” which wasn’t much better. But after nearly seven years of literary magazine rejections, the story, now titled “Should We Lose Cabin Pressure” has found a home with PoV Magazine. This is the second story of mine that Ben Turner and Chris Pilkington have published (see “The Switch”). Please show PoV some support, because they supported a danger-seeking guy like me.)