by Jennifer Diamond
When her plane crashed, Amelia Earhart was wearing two layers of red lipstick and a pair of army green pants. Her flying partner, Fred, later said that he was not at all afraid as they tumbled to earth but in reality, his heart had trembled in his chest. Amelia was afraid too. No amount of flying and take offs and landings and shouts from loving fans would prepare her for the atmosphere’s screaming voice as it rushed past her ears. Her eyelids fluttered as air pounded past, her arms and shoulders stood stiffly in their sockets, her hands locked onto Fred’s and they fell together. Soon her breath began bursting from her chest in time with the failed propellers clacking outside. That is when she hyperventilated.
When she woke up, Fred was holding her throbbing head in his lap and the moon was glowering down – but Amelia was too preoccupied to notice. She was busy remembering the taste of mango from her wedding day. She didn’t want a big white cake because wedding cakes were for women who owned curlers and whose pores liked to soak up perfume. Amelia was never like these women. She did admittedly enjoy the taste and tint of lipstick, but she also loved the way whisky burned her tongue and she wasn’t sure she even believed in marriage. Her husband, George, knew this, of course. But he wanted to wed her all the same.
“For tax reasons, if not for love,” he had said.
And she agreed because she was a reasonable woman. But they had plates full of mangoes instead of cake at the reception.
Fred’s hands felt cool on her forehead.
“We’ve landed.” He smiled at her. His neck was bleeding.
“Your neck is bleeding.”
“It doesn’t matter.”
“You look like a vampire.”
Fred touched his hand to the blood. “No. If I was vampire your neck would be bleeding.”
Amelia lifted her head off of Fred’s lap and tried to stand up.
“I feel like my head is made of old rubber bands.” She looked around. “Where’s the radio?”
He handed it to her. Somehow most pieces were intact, and the rest she could fix. As she willed and coaxed the pieces back together, Fred watched her closely.
“Does your head hurt?”
“Rather badly.” The pain burned at her scalp and then spiderwebbed into a dull ache above her ears. She licked her lips and realized that most of the lipstick had either worn or melted off. It seemed to have been replaced with blisters—small, new ones. Soft and round. Love blisters staining her face, the kind a person gets when she kisses irresponsibly—tactlessly, and without hesitation. She paused in her repairs and probed at her mouth with a calloused finger.
“Whom was I loving today?”
“What?” Fred was still watching her.
Her brother used to come home with these sorts of sores every weekend. Their mother would frown and their father would laugh and her brother would slip the stories to Amelia as they cleaned dishes after dinner.
Red hair, glasses, very small feet.
Dark hair, at least six feet, pointy elbows.
Hazel eyes, pimples, tiny waist.
She often felt that she grew up on her brother’s love. His love for many women and all women, women who blinked their eyelashes at him and spilled their breasts and boiled down to three defining physical characteristics. She remembered these women more than she remembered her mother’s favorite blouse or her father teaching her to shoot a gun. Strangers. Most days she felt as though she was not a woman – certainly not a woman like those of her brother. Most days she did not feel like she was of this earth.
“Finished.” Amelia held up the radio. It crackled in her hand. Fred grabbed it and began spinning dials. Amelia noticed that the blood was now dried in criss-crossing patterns on his collarbone.
“Hello? Hello?” Fred whispered to the radio. “Hello? Hello?” Louder. Crackle. “Maybe you fucked up the wiring.” The panic was apparent in his glare.
“I wired it correctly.”
Fred’s shoulders fell. “The radio doesn’t work.” He looked up. “The radio doesn’t work. The radio doesn’t work the radio doesn’t work theradiodoesn’tworkfuckfucktheradiodoesn’twork–”
“It’s alright, Fred.”
They sent out signals day after day. They crackled into the atmosphere and the world crackled back. No one came and no one heard. They ate shellfish when they could catch it. One day, Amelia ate her lipstick, smeared it in her teeth, her gums, she used to make such a production of putting it on before getting in a plane to fly. She used to have a ritual – lipstick, then jacket, then goggles.
Fred starved to death before Amelia. He was much bigger than her. She thought about eating the body but didn’t. It wouldn’t have been proper, and if nothing else her mother did teach her to be proper. That night she called up to the moon.
You’re so round.
You’re very beautiful.
Everything feels like fucking
cotton candy, Moon.
How am I supposed to fly when I feel this soft?
The moon and Amelia breathed together.
I once saw a man crushed underneath a car’s tires.
His hair was everywhere.
It scratched across the asphalt.
I could see his bones sticking out
through his skin.
I didn’t go near him.
Disease of the dead.
You worry about those things when you’re very alive, I guess.
But I have blood everywhere
in me now.
Blood blood blood.
It’s not such a bad thing.
My mother said if I repeat a word
too many times
it will lose all meaning
And the moon took pity and gathered Amelia into her arms, swooped her up and tucked her into a crater, her hair spilling over rock, her body floating in the sea called Tranquility.
And so Amelia Earhart disappeared.
I have been interested in Amelia Earhart since I was little. Obsessed even. She appears in many of my stories and plays and sometimes I even dream about her. I don't really know why. I think it probably has to do with one of these reasons:
• When I was young, my grandfather used to tell me that Ms. Earhart, Mother Theresa, and Joan of Arc were all the same person. I believed him because I was a child, and children like to believe strange things. It wasn’t until third grade that I learned that my grandfather had been teasing me. My teacher had to call my parents because I insisted that she was wrong.
• I hate flying in planes and Amelia loved it. People who love things that I hate are fascinating to me. Pilots just seem insane. Do you know how heavy a plane is? Really, really heavy. How is it possibly going to win in the fight against gravity?
• Amelia did things as a woman that had never been done before. I like that a lot.
• Amelia disappeared when she was only forty years old and no one really knows what happened. Not you or me or her biographers or her husband or her mother. Isn’t that sad?
A piece of Amelia Earhart’s story is missing. I’d like to try and fill it in. Maybe you’d like to read it. It probably didn’t happen this way, but maybe it did. Why not?
Jennifer Diamond is a junior in college. She is studying writing and theatre. Her plays have been performed with Theatre Ink in Boston, Witness Theatre in Baltimore, and in the Boston Theatre Marathon. Her favorite word is calliope. This is the first time her fiction is being presented publicly.