There was silence before the crash. The whirling of the engines stopped and Chris Cruz just grasped onto the arm rest and shut his eyes tight. It would only be a matter of seconds before the whole thing just scraped the landscape a thousand feet below. Maybe there would be survivors, he thought. Maybe I could be one of the lucky ones. If I were, maybe I can preach the word of God. Maybe.
There was a man sitting next to him. A stout gentleman who was no more than sixty. His beard had grown in time and he hadn’t felt the need to shave it off in such a long time. I was in honor of his wife, he would say to those who asked him why never took up a blade. His wife had died but five months ago and this was tradition in his family; the men never shaved after losing a mother or a wife. An important woman in one’s life deserved such a beard. The last time he hand to grow one was when his mother died of heart failure. Just like that. One moment she was a part of this world, the next she was in the other, looking down upon her family. That was ten years ago. All the men in his family let their beards grow. His wife wasn’t too fond of it and had tried to make him shave it a few times, but he wouldn’t. Nothing would make him remove the hair that was in honor of his mother and the same went for the beard he wore in honor of his wife.
Chris looked at the beard and wondered why the man didn’t bother to clean it. He should’ve cleaned it before we boarded. Not that it matters now. The thoughts went through his him as the plane tried to settle itself on the path. The more it struggled, the less it seemed to correct itself. Chris knew this. Chris knew the time was up and no one would grow a beard for him.
“Why not shave it?” he asked. “Before we crash.”
“Shave what?” the old man asked.
“The beard,” Chris said. “Why not shave it before we crash? It’s an awful beard.”
“Why bother shaving it? We’re going to crash,” the old man replied and then looked around at the other passengers who just sat in wait for their own demise.
There was no panic and this surprised the old man. There was panic when his wife died. Panic at the hospital. Panic at home. Panic everywhere. The whole world was panicked.
The old man wondered why no one on board was panicked and he looked at the young man sitting beside him holding onto the arm rest. He didn’t have the strength to grasp onto the slab of faux wood to restrain the oncoming earth. He wanted to but it was not in him. Not in him since the last time he held onto his wife’s hand before she slipped away in the white hospital sheets. He would have wanted to tell the boy that he didn’t have the strength to hold on to the arm rest let alone shave off his beard.
“Who will grow a beard for me?” asked the old man in such a quiet voice. “Who? Who will grow a beard for me?”
“No one,” Chris said. “No one will grow a beard for any of us. That is a disgusting thing to do.”
The old man looked around the plane, stopping at a young woman who carried an infant in her arms. Clutching, more like it. She held it close to her breast as if to feed it. The infant just slept. Soundly. No twists or turns. No worries from the infant. A reasonable death, the old man thought. The young woman looked up to him and smiled, nervously. What an odd thing to do. Smile, he old man thought. What an odd thing to do.
“You better shave that beard of yours if you want to do it before the plane crashes,” Chris muttered to the old man, hand now ever more clutched to the arm rest. “You better go shave it off your face.”
The old man shook his head. “Not now,” he said. “Now is not the time.”
“When is old man?” Chris said. “You can’t do it after we’ve landed.”
“Perhaps,” the old man said. “Perhaps not.”
The old man smiled at Chris and said, “What an odd thing to do at a time like this.”
“You’ve left,” Chris said. “You hear me? You’ve left.”
But the old man continued to smile, even as the plane scraped the valley below, each section breaking off; the remains consumed in fire.