Editor's Note: Choosing a winning piece for this month’s contest was a challenge, as we received so many unique interpretations of the theme “unlikely encounters.” The notion of an unlikely encounter tends to have a magical, somewhat fate-driven quality about it, and what stood out about this piece is the way it perfectly captures that feeling. There’s something remarkably poignant yet hopeful about the idea that, in the midst of fear and doubt, one unlikely encounter can change everything. Hope you enjoy this piece as much as we did!
By Molly Garrison
If you want to say that you met God, say you met him on an airplane. Say that, as the flight attendants gave you your complimentary beverage, United music jingling in your ears, you realized the stranger next to you was all too calm through the turbulence. Say that your Pepsi spilled across your hands and he offered napkins to wipe it up, nodded when you thanked him nervously. Say that you glanced at your side through the hours only to see his eyes firmly fixed on the tray table in its locked position, his hands gently resting on the armrests.
If you want to say that you met God, don’t say it was in passing. Don’t say that, when you disembarked, you clambered from your sticky seatbelt and glanced tentatively in his direction before you were glared at by the struggling father behind you. Don’t say you slipped out of the terminal gates and saw him staring out the window on the other side of the moving walkway, newspaper in hand, overcoat slung over his forearm. Don’t say you watched him disappear out of view on the shuttle, suitcase neatly under his chair.
For if you want to say that you met God, swear that you are still in the turbulence, clutching your tray table and wondering if it would be weird to use his name while he was present. Swear you are still waiting for the plane to land, debating whether you should open your mouth and ask if he has the time, even if your watch is visible on your wrist. Swear you didn’t watch him disappear between the flight attendant’s watchful grins, between the father and his three whining toddlers. Swear you worked up the courage to stutter out a question – any question – as though asking would affirm his existence, as though the time of day would give you more than just a set of numbers.
If the little foil-wrapped pretzels will give you solace, eat them and wonder if he judges you based on the crumbs on your thighs – but swear that if you met God, it was in a metal container, ten thousand feet in the air, as you felt the floor drop beneath you for the first time, as the fasten your seatbelts sign flashed red above you and you reached for your sides and prayed it would snap shut.
October Monthly Contest
The Prompt: Secrets you're taking to your grave
We welcome everyone to submit a piece. Email a short story or poem up to 400 words in length to email@example.com.
CLICK HERE FOR MORE GUIDELINES.
Winners receive a $25 Coffeehouse gift card and have their piece published both on our blog and in the Rice Thresher's Arts & Entertainment section.
April is the cruelest month, breeding/ Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing/ Memory and desire, stirring/ Dull roots with spring rain.
-T. S. Eliot
R2: The Rice Review
Rice University's undergraduate literary magazine. Here you can find event updates, monthly writing contest winners, and opinions by the R2 staff on what's new, interesting, or subject to discussion in the literary and arts world.