Robert Haydon Jones and Greg Lippert

by Greg Lippert

by Robert Haydon Jones

His first flight happened while he was sleeping – and although he had long nursed a quiet terror of bedtime ever since his father had died in his sleep – Jimmy O’Hara wasn’t at all afraid the first time.

Actually, Jimmy didn’t even remember that he had been flying until two days later when he stood just off the plate as the home team pitcher was completing his warm-ups at the start of a high school baseball game Jimmy was umping.

The pitcher had two more warm-ups left and Jimmy said, “Two more” – and then suddenly, he remembered he had flown for hours two nights back while he was sleeping. Jimmy said, “Jesus, what the hell was I doing?”

The kid catcher said, “What did you say, sir?”

Jimmy said, “I said ‘Bring em in – throw the next pitch down.’ ”

The kid threw down to second and Jimmy brushed the plate off, checked his ump partner at first, and then bellowed, “Play Ball!”

The game commenced and it was a pretty good game. The home team broke a 2-2 tie in the sixth with a triple and a sacrifice fly and then retired the visitors in order for the win. Jimmy was pleased with his performance. With the exception of two borderline third strike calls, he was positive he had gotten them all right.

And that was amazing, because all during the game he had been haunted by his sudden recall of the memory of his flying while sleeping. It had been a quick, crisp, game — so for once he got home early before his wife. He took a long, thoughtful, shower.

Anne, his wife, was still at Memorial, in her office in the old, federal style wing, dispensing advice and meds, as needed, to trauma victims. Jimmy wanted to tell Anne about the flying thing – but there was no way on God’s green earth that he would.

So, when she got in about a half hour after his shower, she was happily surprised he was back from his game and all showered and changed. He told her his game had gone well and that the local high school had won. She said the highlight of her day had been when two of her PTSD grads had come in for an unannounced visit to tell Anne and the staff that happened to be around that they were doing well. They were both working. One had moved back in with his wife. They were clean and sober and still happily attending 12-Step meetings.

Looking back, Jimmy felt that right then, when Anne was feeling good about the two Marines, would have been the perfect time for him to tell her about the flying thing. But he didn’t. His rationalization was that he didn’t want to mess up her happy day. But, of course, that wasn’t really it. Jimmy was worried what she would think.

Not telling Anne was a stupid mistake. From then on, she sensed, no she knew that Jimmy was holding something from her. This was Anne – really Glinda the good witch of PTSD – and you held nothing back from her really – because she already knew everything you were holding even if you didn’t – and even though she knew it all, often way before you did, she was still talking to you and still sleeping with you now and again.

So that’s how the flying thing got to be a secret thing with Jimmy. And somehow it was a secret of something wrong. Jimmy knew that the only possible antidote to this being the secret of something wrong was telling this secret out and standing back and seeing what happened. That explains why, later, although he was terrified of doing it, he did tell the secret out.

But that night was when Jimmy’s flying thing entered their relationship to stay forever.

Anne washed up and changed into a peach colored dress with red polka dots and her very stylish red spike high heels from Florence and they went on out to their favorite Italian restaurant. They dined with a young doctor and his wife from Memorial and Carmine an art director Jimmy used from time to time on freelance marketing jobs and Carmine’s latest squeeze, Amy, a young, red-haired, impossibly buxom Assistant DA.

They had a fabulous dinner. Joe, the garrulous owner chef, was a true genius and the room was jammed with foodies grateful they had enough money to afford such amazing food along with lots and lots of good drink on a lovely night in mid May.

Jimmy didn’t drink. But in his way he got giddy along with everyone else at his table as the night went on. Over desert and the three-drink noise at the restaurant, Jimmy suddenly said, “I flew in my sleep the other night and I’m wondering what it means.”

Carmine said, “Who did you do in your sleep.” Buxom Amy blushed and smiled.

The Doctor said, “What was that Jimmy? What did you do?

Anne said, “What did you say? What are you talking about?”

Just then, Joe, the owner, came over carrying a big bottle of Grappa. He put it in front of Amy and said, “Dump this weirdo and come with me. I have an inexhaustible supply.”

Well, the Grappa whizzed around the table and in the end everyone was glad that Jimmy was a Permanent Designated Driver. He and Anne got home late. They went to bed and had sex like Jimmy knew they would ever since she had selected her dress and shoes. Just before they started, Anne said, “I heard what you said about flying. I really don’t want to hear more. I don’t want you going weird on me. I’ve got way too much on my plate.”

So, from then on, his flying was a secret. And, from then on, he tried to fly every night.

At first, at least for the first three months or so, all of his flying was “blind.” As he drifted into sleep he would sense the acceleration’s presence and then (on a good night) the acceleration would come closer and closer until he gingerly engaged with it and the flying commenced.

In the beginning, every time he started to go really fast, he got frightened and he couldn’t help but pull back a tad – and then he would sort of hang there — flying for sure — but it was more like gliding, until little by little, he would lean into it and his speed would steadily accelerate.

To be clear, Jimmy never felt his body was leaving the bed – but rather his interior. He thought it through and felt real comfortable with the word, “interior”. He could have said “soul” and that might have been just as accurate – but it was no way near as comfortable as interior.

So, he would drift down, engage and start up. After months and months, he learned to push back on his fear reflex as they went to speed and lean right into the acceleration. As he flew, Jimmy was often suffused with rapture. The rapture deepened as his speed increased. Some times he would hear a long, long, attenuated groan in the distance and every time he did, it wasn’t until quite a lot further into the flight that he would realize that the groan was coming from him.

Some times he wept tears of joy. Part of him knew he was weeping tears of joy but he didn’t really know for sure until the morning when he would see that the pillow was all damp and there was salt crusted on his eye lids.

The raptures were wonderful. They didn’t occur every time he flew. The raptures came fairly frequently but not on any schedule that Jimmy could figure. It was a mystery but it sure was wonderful. In time, the raptures left a “feel good” residue with him. He was able to reference them in his waking hours – like taking a breath of fresh air. He was happy.

People began to comment that Jimmy smiled a lot for no particular reason. Jimmy knew that he was smiling for a very particular reason. He felt good. He was good. He could fly.

But, of course, since he was human, Jimmy wanted more. For months he flew blind. As he flew, he couldn’t see anything. He was just sleeping as far as visuals were concerned. He tried to dream in some visuals, but when he came up with a scene — the flying immediately stopped — and he was just asleep and dreaming of something.

So, then he decided to work on the flying itself and that opened up a whole new realm of experience for him. He taught himself how to do loops and barrel rolls and Immelmann Turns and the reverse Split S. Some times he would climb high and then simply dive straight down at great speed until some force would gradually pull Jimmy up before he ran out of space and he would finish off the maneuver with a barrel roll.

Jimmy saw a therapist once a week for many years as part of his after-care for PTSD. Jimmy trusted Walter but he was reluctant to tell him about the flying. It seemed crazy. But he had to tell someone. The secret was becoming toxic because it was a secret. His first impulse at the very first had been to tell Anne – but now, he sure didn’t want her to know. She would chalk him up as a PTSD relapser in need of heavy meds. Right or wrong , Jimmy didn’t want Anne putting down his flying.

So he told Walter. He told him straight out. He talked about his flying for half an hour. When Walter asked him what did he think it meant, Jimmy’s heart sank. Walter was being nice about it — but he didn’t believe that Jimmy was flying.

Jimmy said he didn’t know what it meant. He said he was sad that Walter didn’t believe he was really flying. He said he was a little frightened too. He said he was also frightened and sad that he couldn’t tell Anne that he was flying. He told Walter that the flying made him so happy. That he could feel a residue of goodness in himself now that made him smile.

Walter said he hoped Jimmy knew that Walter would never want to take that goodness away from him. And that maybe he should give Anne some credit too.

At the end of their session, Jimmy shook Walter’s hand like he always did and then gave him a hug like he never had before. He didn’t know if he would ever see Walter again.

That night, he and Anne went out to the Japanese restaurant for a Bento Box. He told her straight out about the flying and what Walter had said and how he had been afraid to tell her all this time and that he was even more afraid now after Walter – but that, of course, now he really had to tell her.

Anne didn’t say anything for a long minute or so. Then she said, “You know, I’ve noticed that you’ve changed. You seem so much happier. Much easier to be around. Even your smile is different. You never used to smile much. Now you smile a lot. For a while I thought it was because we’ve gotten better at being together. I mean you make better love to me now than you did when we first started up – and that’s really something, don’t you think?

“ But I knew there was something. A shadow. I’m so sorry you couldn’t tell me. I don’t blame you. My first reaction right now was, “Oh, oh, he’s going down the tubes again.” But then I had another reaction. I felt your joy. I felt your wonder. So my reaction was, ‘Jimmy may be going down the tubes again – but I sure would like to go with him.’ ”

Jimmy said, “Really Anne?

Anne said, “Really, really. I mean Jimmy you get to fly almost every night. You get a big dose of rapture and no hangover. Does that sound like something that needs fixing?”

So, that’s how the secret came out. Jimmy was grateful. But it wasn’t until that night when he flew again while he was sleeping that he felt utter relief.

Almost from the very first, Jimmy O’Hara knew that if there was one bad thing about the flying it was that he seemed destined to be always flying solo. But that night as he leaned into the familiar acceleration and spiraled up, he felt something new and different. It was a presence. He looped left and the presence looped with him. He did a slow roll and the presence came right along with him. His heart soared with rapture.

This was truly an historic flight. He did an Immelmann Turn nice and easy in celebration. The presence came along. The rapture swelled. What a night! The flying was even better! As Jimmy soared and looped and soared, he wondered what the morning would be like.

©2015, RHJA, LLC. All Rights Reserved


  1. Posted March 12, 2015 at 6:30 am | #

    What a lovely expression of what I’m sure so many of us feel from a happy dream. I feel like I just woke up from flying in my sleep.

  2. Posted March 12, 2015 at 8:55 am | #

    A delightful tight knit story of escape from the “humdrum” of life,,Jimmy found a way to un-plug and soar and smile and feel………..Bravo!

  3. Posted March 12, 2015 at 8:57 am | #

    Nice images of soaring. Will have to look up: Immelmann Turn!

  4. Posted March 13, 2015 at 6:13 pm | #

    A barrel roll for Jones. I believe he can fly.

  5. Posted March 14, 2015 at 1:06 pm | #

    Nice flow to the story. Odd how the main character turns something that makes him feel so great into a toxic secret. Why would a man feel so scared to feel good?

  6. Posted March 17, 2015 at 8:13 pm | #

    And story that can find a way for the rapture to swell is worth its weight in gold. Nice dreamy flow.

  7. Posted March 24, 2015 at 6:22 am | #

    I can’t wait to take nap!

  8. Posted March 26, 2015 at 4:29 pm | #

    Ecstacy and exhilaration present front and centre here.Well written and oddly familiar scenario for dreamers
    Thank you again

  9. Posted May 8, 2015 at 8:19 am | #

    A mind on parole goes anywhere it wants . Thanks for for the trip Bob It was exhilarating