The 400 Mile-An-Hour Fly
By Reid Stell

Shortly before takeoff on my way to Philadelphia and a series of business meetings, not unlike any number of meetings of which lately my professional life seems to consist, I was visited by a fly. It liked me, I could tell. And he was carrying a message.

Had he followed me? I presumed he was on his way to Chicago (where I would make my connection) to visit distant relatives perhaps, or just to put some distance between himself and the all-too-familiar dumpsters and dog piles of the Emerald City (nee The Jet City, nee the Queen City, nee whatever they called Seattle before that).

He reminded me of me. The me of a few years ago, less tied down, less established, less polite: the me of my 20s. Wanting, needing to run, to hide; but mostly to see the rest, or die trying. For flies live only a few days, and lengthy delays in leaving the nest-- or the compost pile or the suburban rambler as the case may be-- are bound to spoil the adventure of a lifetime before it starts.

He checked in on me often during the flight, prompting me to remain aware that I was not sitting in a chair, but a seat-- headed away... leaving "here" at a high rate, bound for none other than the glorious land of "there." (His persistent, little buzz assured me my meetings wouldn't last all day and all night.) The world lay before us waiting to be discovered, as usual. Would he follow me off the plane when we landed? Or would he stay aboard and continue on to Frankfurt, the 737's final destination, and really make a grand excursion out of it?

In the Old Country, he would've been a celebrity. After all, how many European house flies meet an American cousin who's flown over for the day? It may have even been possible for him to catch a return flight before his cosmic ticket expired, and bring home exotic tales of savory feasts at sunny bratwurst stands, all-night frolics in puddles of strong beer, leisurely baths in stagnant motes in the shadow of moldy castles. Activities perhaps not so different than what he could have found in the Windy City, and yet so foreign, so "there."

The briefcase toting ex-counterculturalist in me envied that insect's short, full, clear-cut life; and the lusty horizons spread before his compound eyes. And I vowed to remember, at least until some other would-be pest materializes and declares himself my spirit guide, that this life is transitory and it's the transitions from place to place and from time to time, and not the safe routines, that make it worth the trip.

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