Of course the future is a mystery. But the past? This is nuts!
Talk about ruin-your-day flights. I'm headed to Florida, when the elderly man seated next to me collapses on my tray table. I swear, if I'd known this was his final boarding call, I would have offered him my pretzels or my New York Times. But no, I was too busy feeling bloated, anxious, depressed, unloved, a failure, and did I mention bloated?
You'd be bummed too if you were almost thirty, living back home in Plainview, Long Island, with your at-war parents and loser siblings. If your acting career was such a bust your last film was an X-ray. If your boyfriend and your agent dumped you the same week, but great news! -- They're in love with each other.
Could things possibly get any worse? Do you even need to ask?That man on the flight? We were related. And my life story? Nothing like I thought. Oh, and then this fall in the shower? Opened up my psychic senses. Bottom line? I knew nothing about my real past, but suddenly my future was coming in loud and clear!
You've got to follow me on this amazing spiritual adventure that sent my life into a tailspin. I promise you love, laughter, oh-my-God secrets, and a ride to the "other side" you'll never forget. But lock the bathroom door. You're not coming out until you've heard it all.
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About the Author
Saralee Rosenberg is the author of A Little Help from Above, Claire Voyant, and Fate and Ms. Fortune. She lives on Long Island (where else?) with her husband and three children.
Read an Excerpt
"Will your grandfather be needing any special assistance?"
The gate agent asked as she waited for my boarding pass to print out.
"My grandfather?" I said. Frankly, it was a little late for special assistance, as both of them were dead. I assumed she must be speaking to the person behind me.
"Does he need a wheelchair? Extra time to board?" This time the woman looked right at me, and without glancing at her airline ID, I knew her name wasn't Patience.
Let me guess. She would walk off the job if she had to deal with one more skinny blonde in Prada who couldn't grasp a simple concept.
Normally this sort of profiling offended me. It was bad enough having just been felt up at the security check-in because my underwire bra set off the metal detector and I had to be ruled out as a terrorist threat. But to be typecast as a bimbo by a woman who clearly colored her own hair, that was just wrong. It reminded me of all the times Hollywood producers wrote me off because I was more Darryl Hannah than Julia Roberts, and they had like zero imagination.
"I'm sorry," I replied. "Are you talking to me?"
"Yes," she snapped. "That gentleman over there." She pointed to an elderly man who was dozing in a corner chair. "Aren't you two traveling together?"
"I don't know. Is he rich?"
"Ma'am, I have no idea ... Your seat assignment is next to his. I just assumed ... I thought I noticed a resemblance."
I studied the silver-haired geezer whose pant waist was up to his pupik. "Yeah, I can see the confusion," I laughed. "We're practically twins."
"Sorry," she sighed. "It's been crazy today, with the rain and cancellations."
"Although I'll be honest" -- I leaned in -- "I did request to sit next to a hot single guy. I guess next time I should be more specific about the age."
"Believe me, you'll be happy." She handed me a boarding card. "I almost put you next to that lady with the screaming twins."
I spotted the young mother whose infants were wailing as if their bottles had been seized by security. So the agent was right. I loved babies, but if I had to listen to those shrill cries all the way from New York to Miami, I just might open the emergency exit door at thirty thousand feet. Better to take my chances with Gramps. Maybe he had a hot single grandson for me.
Unfortunately, I never got to ask. He seemed anxious to chat, but right after takeoff, instead of doing the cordial thing, I napped. Then, when the plane reached a comfortable cruising altitude, I leafed through People magazine and became fixated on this picture of Penny Nichol at her fiftieth birthday bash. I was wondering, was it just me, or had the legendary film actress gotten a little porky around the ass, when suddenly the elderly man seated next to me, the stranger mistaken for my grandfather, started waving, and collapsed on my tray table.
Damn! Too late for a do-over. There would be no reversing his heart attack, nor my abject indifference to him. And I felt terrible. For had I known that his last few hours on earth might be spent on American's Flight 1165, I would have been much friendlier. Offered him my bag of pretzels, or any section he wanted of my New York Times.
Trouble was, it never dawned on me that this could be his final boarding call. Yes, he looked to be in his mid-eighties. But there weren't any signs that his health was failing. No note pinned to his checkered blazer that read, caution: this man is a ticking time bomb.
My first and only indication of distress was when he gasped, clutched his shirt, and fell on top of my magazine. Shame on me. It was only after I realized that his bifocals had fallen in my coffee and his hand was resting in my crotch that I screamed for help.
Please don't think I'm a snob or insensitive to strangers. I'm always chatting with people with whom my only bond is that we're bracing for a bikini wax or sitting in a casting agent's office, hoping the audition won't be another waste of highlights and lip treatments.
Nor as a rule am I unkind to the elderly. I'm not the one groaning in line at the supermarket when the old ladies fumble for exact change. And never do I honk at senior motorists, even when the old farts need as much time to make a left turn as I need to brush my teeth.
But as I watched the lead flight attendant try to revive the dying man's heart using one of those new portable defibrillators, I asked myself a God-fearing question. How could I, Claire Greene, Very Nice Girl, have completely ignored a member of my species?
The truth? I thought no one would ever know. It's not like undercover flight attendants walk through the aisles with little notepads. Unfriendly passenger in 8B. No interaction with seatmate, hogged the armrest, ripped several pages out of our magazines ...
There's more. I had counted on being able to use my time on board to indulge in self-pity, not humor some old guy who was thrilled to have a captive audience for three hours. First he'd expect me to kvell at pictures of his brilliant and beautiful grandchildren, who in all likelihood only called around the annual Festival of Checkbook. Next would come the stories of his remarkable feats in the stock market. Finally, he'd drop the name of the world-renowned surgeon who was honored to perform his triple bypass for free (although if it was actually true that he got a freebie, it might explain why he was lying unconscious in the aisle of a 757) ...Claire Voyant. Copyright © by Saralee Rosenberg. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.