by dolan morgan March 01, 2012
In the late summer of 2001, just shy of manned flight’s 100th anniversary, one particular hijacking loomed large.“The couple, who were in their sixties, booked the one-hour trip with Mr. Hayashi's company, called Fly Key West, which offers customers the opportunity to have sex in an airplane.”1 The amorous duo was, by all accounts, about to enter the Mile High Club in a Piper Cherokee plane which had “been converted to a two-seater aircraft containing a 'lounge' area behind the cockpit.”2 Yet, on the day of the excursion, 21 minutes after receiving a distress signal, “Rescuers found Mr. Hayashi 'the pilot' in the water,” luckily alive, “but there was no sign of the plane or the couple.”3

Everything, as if planned with precision, disappeared. The lovers allegedly attempted to hijack the “sex plane” at knifepoint, and in the ensuing scuffle, the “plane crashed into the sea between Key West and Cuba,”4 where Mr. Hayashi “managed to scramble out of the sinking plane and suffered only cuts and bruises. The man and woman apparently were trapped” within the confines of the craft, perhaps in the lounge area itself, behind the curtain, as it sank 3,600 feet to the ocean floor.5

It is clear, then, that these lovers failed to hijack the Piper Cherokee airplane, while the ocean succeeded. The operation went off almost without a hitch: where the couple could not gain control of the plane, the waves did—in a contest no one knew they were losing. That is, the water filled every inch of the aircraft, leaving nothing to chance, and shuttled it by force to a far off destination. The ill-fated lovers therefore became captives in a hostage scenario bigger than their capacity to understand. “There’s no talk at all right now of recovering the plane,”6 and no ransom has ever been posted, so what the ocean might want in return for the plane and its occupants is a matter of speculation and tenuous guesswork. We ought to rule out money altogether as a ransom, not because the ocean has no use for finances, but because it is already filled with treasure-rich coffers and long-sunk booties. We can eliminate too the goal of flight-as-transcendent-freedom, not only because the waters effectively steered the airplane straight down instead of up, but also because the water cycle already ensures that the ocean will fly into the air, travel the world with ease and then return safely home to the sea (or itself). Nor should we consider plausible the goal of political asylum—because the ocean already exists, as a matter of percentage, primarily in International Waters, and it has no friends to speak of or defend. Why, then, would the ocean hijack a plane? And what would be its ransom?To understand what the ocean wants, we must invoke its personage. That is, who is the ocean? And what are its interests, hobbies? How does it spend a Saturday afternoon? Does it have a favorite film? Song? Dance? Can it whistle? The answers to all of these questions may be made irrelevant or already answered by the Hindu hymns, wherein the deity Varuna, riding atop his half-antelope-half-fish Makara, was “originally the god of the heavens” but “came to be regarded as the god of the ocean.”7 What once was the sky became the water. From this vantage point, through the eyes of an ancient divorce, a fundamental division, we can begin to trace a motive, and to see on the horizon the outline of an ultimate conviction, for a crime committed by the waters against the sky.

To understand what the ocean wants, to know what its ransom might be, or from where it might stem, we need only consider the ocean’s position beneath the sky, the way the two rub one against the other from day into night, the endless approach and parade of ships sent out in search of something and shrinking into the distance, the always going there and never arriving, the discovery that not only the earth, but we too, are not flat but round, and we need only to imagine staring into something that we believe we know, and indeed always have, in ways that are indescribable, like an elderly couple at the controls of a plane, at the point of a crash.

So then, what does the ocean want?The ocean wants to have sex. Yet it has only itself in every direction, for miles and miles. As in Stanislav Lem’s novel Solaris, the ocean is sad and alone, trying desperately to reach out and understand the world around it, through absurd machinations: “Sometimes there is no sound. Sometimes the index of refraction increases or diminishes,”9 but always the ever churning waves are the ocean’s anxiety, desolation and despair. And as in Solaris, the ocean is not some powerful ancient human-like intelligence, but a “big dumb object in space,”10 more like an animal than a god, an animal in heat. And so it heaves its body upward in great tides toward the sky, to grasp and transform, as if withhands, as if with hands we could manipulate the world into what we want. That is why it chooses to swallow a sex charter, with a lounge and special seats, and why it entered every inch of the craft, as if both to understand it and to become it, and why it dragged the object into its depths, simultaneously filling and being filled, a desperate attempt to rile the sky’s jealously, by claiming one if its toys, to fire the dome’s heart into descending downward upon the water, as the arrangement once was between Gaia and Ouranos, with no space between heaven and earth, no horizon or longing—just sex.

And yet the ocean cannot achieve this state of affairs, not because the sky is too stubborn, or its captives too lacking in value, but because there is no ransom for the ocean to receive. The object is not there, for the sky itself is only an image, a reflection, a trick of the light, a refraction of energy, a displaced trajectory, a mistake. In this story, the ocean never meets the sky, because the sky does not exist, and the lonely ocean circles the earth with its ransom, trying in vain to make the drop-off, slamming itself against the rocks.

And what happens when the ocean discovers, finally, that everything it wants and desires is only a distorted image of something it doesn’t understand? Will it invent new ways to move? Will it ask for help? Forgiveness? Will it “pray to us in calculus”? Will it “share our troubles and terrors, and beg us to help it die”?11 And, if so, will we help? Could we even, if we tried? “What’s the good of disposing of her if she keeps returning?” Can we keep the ocean from ever finding out? Can we enter a comedy of errors where we pretend to be the sky in order to pacify the water? Considering the set pieces and costuming, it sounds hard.

Rather, we should just admit that the ocean already knows. And we ought not to pity it, but instead admire the ocean for this—because what it wants is “a synthesis we ourselves have never managed to achieve,”12 an impossible one-night stand with nothing and nothing and nothing. We might ask: did the elderly couple know this, too? Were they really going to Cuba, or were they trying finally to become one another, while admitting that neither of them nor their love for one another had ever even existed, even after all those years and dinners and mornings, beyond anything but a trick of the light, and a mistake? Was that it? We cannot say, because to this day no one knows whether or not they opted, in the throes of death, at a very reasonable rate, to upgrade their flight to a premium package replete with toys and a “souvenir video.”12Yet we can still imagine this tape, see it dragged up from the depths and dried out, shoved clumsily into the VCR and played, so that we might receive the image, displayed before us in light, so that we might watch it and rewatch it, rewind and fast forward, again and again, without end or hesitation or pause, from day into night. What would we see? Flickering in and out, we would witness a lemon party: the teetering ocean and hobbling sky, the water and its desire, conspirators and aging lovers, fucking in the gaudy lounge of a chartered Cherokee Piper airplane, and then emerging from behind the curtain with enormous and self-satisfied grins to take control of the clumsy craft at knife-point.

And obviously, after the scuffle, what they finally crash into is something else entirely. With both ocean and sky trapped in a sinking craft, captives in a hostage scenario that is bigger than their capacity to understand, we might be tempted to say that there is no longer a horizon, that with nothing to separate and nothing to stand between, there can be no horizons at all. But instead, when there’s nothing left, it’s all horizon, in every direction. Let the record show: We’re only standing in its way.


Dolan Morgan is a writer whose fiction and poetry can be found in venues such as Armchair/Shotgun and The Believer (upcoming). For previous pieces in Dolan's series on the mythology of hijacking, see: Myth One; Myth Two; Myth Three; Myth Four; Myth Five. The author's reference notes citing historical periodical research are available separately.