Written Off by Rich Furman

Fog demands faith you typically do not possess. Peering over you the tops of your knuckles; you have perhaps ten feet visibility, which means those random hands and eyes you cannot know possess the same potential, and determine you as much as your own skill or volition.

What is this, clouds upon the earth? Earth revolving toward the atmosphere, forever spinning and seeking? It is always about where you stand, and the direction you cast a given sense.

But driving east on Pioneer Parkway, liminal between Tacoma, Puyallup and Weller, the volcano creeps upon you. You resist giving into another fog, this milky ghost of despair. Feel it. Take it in, but do not let it consume you as if you were an arid slice of airline coffee cake and a careless cup of burned coffee.

Breathe it all as you drive east, the direction she soon, your daughter, will leave to, and in all likelihood, never return. Breathe in the years. It has already begun. It is not enough that she will be airborne; you need to know the vessel. You search her flight.

The Boeing 767 flew its first commercial flight September 8th, 1982. This would have been your junior year of high school. That summer your body thickened&emdash;uncoupled from childhood—went to perhaps 75 punk gigs, and made love to Bonnie in the hatchback of your Toyota Celica more times than that.

The 767—six fatal crashes, 15 hull-loss accidents, and three hijackings. A hull-loss accident: an aviation accident that damages the aircraft beyond economical repair, resulting in a write-off. The term also applies to aircraft disappearances, or when the search for its wreckage is terminated or when the wreckage is completely inaccessible. The plane, subsequently, is “written off.”

After pancakes, you sit with her, with little to say. When you lived together, you could rest side by side for hours, perhaps watching Aqua Teen Hunger Force, petting the dogs. Now, it’s an awkward burden that stoops you. You go online, search for facts about Munich, read them to her, about tours she will probably never take, restaurants far out of her price range, and castles that would bore her. Munich is the third-largest city in Germany, but only the sixth-largest metropolitan area. She listens attentively, nods her head, strokes the dog.

The third-most-deadly 767 accident occurred on April 15th, 2002. The pilot paid too much attention to the fog, paradoxically, and the right wing clipped a tree. He neglected to control for all the variables, and 129 of the 166 people on board died. The plane, of course, was written off. Bastard.

You drive her back to her mother’s house; what she now calls home. It’s as if her decision has stripped her body of flesh; she is slowly becoming pure spirit. One of the 129, or the remaining 27? Or perhaps I, one of the 27. I am an insurance casualty to balance in her spreadsheet of growing up.

I park the car in front of the coffee house; one-hour parking, it seems, only on Sunday. That is the amount of time you spent with your daughter, awkward, almost interminable now. You will sit by yourself in the midst of strangers and be at total ease.

“It is your job to support her in becoming that which she wishes to be.” I repeat this three times out loud. Nobody notices. That is the gift of cell-phone culture; you can mumble to yourself and people will assume you are on some wireless device that you could give a shit about.

Munich contains castles, antiquities and, for her, the wonder of something unknown into which she can project 20-year-old dreams.

You, sir, are a hull-loss accident. What you do not know, however, is if you are damaged beyond repair.

Soon, you will finish your coffee, turn the car around and return west, toward the rusting cranes of Tacoma’s shipyards, the brown winter grass everywhere marking this fallow winter. It will take you 24 minutes to return home, and the dogs will greet you as the hero you shall never be.

Rich Furman is the author or editor of over 15 books. These include a collection of flash nonfiction and prose poems called Compañero (Main Street Rag, 2007), The Immigrant Other: Lived Experiences in a Transnational World (Columbia University Press, 2016) and Detaining the Immigrant Other: Global and Transnational Issues, and Practical Tips for Publishing Scholarly Articles (Oxford University Press, 2012). His poetry and creative nonfiction have been published in Black Bear Review, Coe Review, Colere, The Evergreen Review, Free Lunch, Hawai’i Review, The Journal of Poetry Therapy, New Hampshire Review, Pearl, Penn Review, Red Rock Review, Sierra Nevada Review and many others. He is professor of social work at University of Washington Tacoma, where he teaches in the gender-studies program. He’s considered one of the pioneers of poetic inquiry, and he explores the intersection between the creative and expressive arts and autoethnography.