Thomas Wictor



My name is Tom and I’m a pteromerhanophobic. Nothing has been able to cure me. That’s not really 100 percent accurate; we’ll get to that in a minute. But pteromerhanophobia is fear of flying.

As a fifteen-year-old, I picked up Erika Jong’s novel Fear of Flying because I thought it would about…fear of flying. But it’s actually the story of a woman named Isadora Zelda White Stollerman Wing, who longs for sex without emotion.

The zipless fuck is absolutely pure. It is free of ulterior motives. There is no power game. The man is not “taking” and the woman is not “giving.” No one is attempting to cuckold a husband or humiliate a wife. No one is trying to prove anything or get anything out of anyone. The zipless fuck is the purest thing there is. And it is rarer than the unicorn. And I have never had one.

Even as a teenager who’d never had sex, I knew that I could wait until dark, walk down the street, knock on the door of a Texan I knew, and go with her to the park, where they had these wooden three-story towers that were perfect for having the sort of encounter that the grown woman Erika Jong couldn’t seem to arrange.

The Texan was more than willing, and she sure didn’t want an emotional connection with me. That was why I never asked. I was never once interested in the zipless fuh-fuh-fuh. I didn’t use the term “fuck” in the relationships I was in. Nakamura—the Cat Faced Ghost in the Rising Sun—had the vocabulary of a seventy-year-old U.S. Marine gunnery sergeant.

“Let’s fuck, Wictor-head” she’d say in either a marine gunnery-sergeant growl or a cloying, childish boop-boop-be-doop. “I love fucking you!”

I didn’t complain, because I had no right to tell her how to speak. But I thought it was coarse and undignified. It turned me off. Though I finished Fear of Flying, I never read another book by Erika Jong. She was too crude. And boring.

As far back as I can remember, I had pteromerhanophobia. I think the jungle hoppers we took all over Venezuela were what started it. We’d zoom around at treetop level, dipping and careening. Once we flew a twin-engined propeller plane from Tyler, Texas, to Dallas. You could see daylight coming through all around the seal of the door, and the carpet kept inflating like a balloon. I’m sure I was as ashen as my brother Pat, who sat next to me.

The only time I wasn’t afraid to fly was when we took National Airlines. It must’ve been the yellows, oranges, and reds that decorated the cabin interior. Those colors always calm me. And the logo was spectacular.

My best memory of flying was when we took a Boeing 747 from Miami to Los Angeles in 1967.

For whatever reason it was sunset the entire time were were in the air. I don’t know if that’s physically possible, so I may have embellished it, since I was only five. The orange-red light from the sky complimented the cabin decor and the uniforms of the flight attendants.

My favorite uniform was the one that looked like orange sherbet, a dessert I could have only in the US. I don’t know why those flight attendants are wearing orange goggles, but I like them.

Inside the cabin, the curtains and pillows were in orange, yellow, and red.

The seat covers had a blue-and-yellow flower pattern that I remember well.

I never saw any flight attendants smoking or drinking vodka from the bottle, but this was the era of the zipless you-know-what, so I’m sure a wonderful time was had by all.

My only concern then as now was not being afraid. And I was never afraid when we flew National. I would’ve happily spent the rest of my life on a National 747, forever flying into the sunset as they served us club sandwiches and Fresca.

Though I was absolutely certain that I’d never again experience the calm and peace of mind I felt on that National 747 in 1967, I was wrong. A few days ago, I was taking time exposures in Mom and Dad’s house. I had a strong urge to do so, and now I listen to all my urges. Here’s the photo of their kitchen.

That’s not what the kitchen really looks like. The light gave it the yellows and oranges of the National 747 that carried me to Los Angeles when I was five years old.

Looking at this photo relaxes me. It reminds me that nothing is ever lost. My friend the Father Who Dances has asked me to write more about the signs I see around me, the patterns that reinforce my belief that all is well.

Who would’ve thought that my late parents’ kitchen would be transformed into one of the few environments of peace and contentment I’ve had the privilege of occupying? Tim told me that he had no photos of a National Airlines cabin. Like me, he was wrong. I found this two minutes ago.

Mom in 1971, on a National Airlines 747. Photo by Tim Wictor.

This article viewed 439 times.