Flight of the Rising Star

Published on 09/23/2023

Up and coming hip-hop artist, Tempo Hype, barely got to the gate on time for his flight to the festival. Overcast cloud cover buffeting the floor to ceiling terminal windows projected the sensation of flying in slow motion. Aromas of coffee from the cafe next to the gate floated over the lingering smell of fried food from the food court further down. Arrival and departure gate announcements blurred with low-level murmurs from traveler’s conversations. Before sitting down he studied the departure board. Scanning through the long list of flights to find his gate and time felt like sifting through streaming stats to find his latest rankings.

He went to find a seat after confirming he was at the right gate, thinking about the festival tomorrow. It was going to be the biggest festival all year, people would be coming from all over. He sat down in an open seat right next to the windows, the feeling of outside cold on one side contrasted with warm inside air on the other. A young woman that was sitting in the next seat got up and walked over to check the flights status board. A businessman wearing a wrinkled blue sports jacket took her place while she joined a small group congregating around the display like bored music fans scrolling through stale Spotify recommendations. A year from now Tempo’s music would dominate hip-hop playlists, but for now he just chilled in his seat like everybody else.

“Attention folks” the gate attendant’s voice crackled through the loudspeaker, “We regret to inform you that there will be a delay for your flight today. The delay is due to severe weather conditions affecting our incoming connecting flight …” Tempo sat up straight, ignoring the ongoing announcements, his shoulders tightened as he rubbed the back of his head scrambling to think about what he would do if he missed the festival.

Relax, relax he talked himself down, The festival is tomorrow, I’m sure the flight will still get me there tonight, worse case I’ll just lose a little sleep. Stardom ain’t got a scheduled arrival time.

He picked up an airport magazine off the side table with a sigh, he must’ve read this same magazine a thousand times over the past few months of his touring schedule. Flipping through pages as if they were written in a different language, he attempted to distract himself from the rain clouds outside. He dropped the magazine back on the table where he found it, and checked his phone for the hundredth time that day, replying to a few DM’s and liking some posts to appreciate his fans as he scrolled through his feed. I love you guys he thought, but sometime I wish I could just disconnect for a while without losin’ out.

A quick glint caught his attention, and he looked up to see a plane rolling to the gate.

“Ladies and Gentleman, we are pleased to inform you that our incoming connecting flight has now arrived at the gate.” announced the gate attendant. Tempo didn’t pay much attention to the rest of the announcements, familiar with travel routines he gazed out the window and found the clouds to be relaxing again.

Arriving passengers started to make their way out of the jetway and into the terminal. An older couple walked slowly, the husbands intentional steps supported by an elegant cane as he held his wife’s hand in support. A family of four emerged as if dazed by the storm. A young college kid followed listlessly, without a care or desire to get anywhere in particular.

Man, waitin’ for these folks to get off my plane is more excruciating than editing a new track Tempo thought, his foot bouncing. A middle aged guy in a cowboy hat and boots was followed off the plane by a young couple wearing grunge hoodies and covered in piercings. Tempo leaned back in his seat, thinking about his future fans, imagining how they might come from all different backgrounds but seeking the same destination of escape in his music.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we are pleased to announce that it is now time to begin boarding. Please have your boarding passes ready as you approach the gate. We’ll start with pre-boarding for passengers with special needs, unaccompanied minors, and active-duty military personnel in uniform. Please approach the gate when you hear your group called.”

Tempo double-checked his boarding pass – Group C, well at least I’ve got a window seat. Eyes half closed, he waited patiently as his seat jostled a bit from passengers getting up to board.

“Group C, Group C and all remaining groups you are welcome to board now.”

He walked onto the jetway after scanning his boarding pass with the attendant, dark and shaky it reminded him of the tunnel backstage at the last club he played in, at least it doesn’t smell so bad.

He appreciated the friendly welcome by the flight attendant as he stepped on the plane, it was an extra long day for them too. After slow shuffling down the aisle, he finally got to his row. The guy in the middle seat was wearing a festival t-shirt, and stepped out to let Tempo in. Tempo got himself into his seat, put his Nike duffel under the seat in front of him, and his gummies in the seat pouch for later. He opened the window shade and looked out, tarmac glistened under another plane taxiing past.

“Excuse me” said the guy next to him “Are you…, are you Kendrick Lamar?” he asked, eyes wide.

“Nah man, people say I look like him, but I can’t see it. I’m a big fan a his though. My name’s Tempo Hype, I got a spot at the festival tomorrow, you can check me out here” Tempo said, holding up his phone.

“Oh OK, OK well good to meet’cha, yeah I’ll check out your stage tomorrow for sure!”

Tempo nodded, and then looked down the aisle of the cabin trying to get an idea how many more passengers were still boarding. Then he felt a kick in the back of his seat, as he was about to turn around and say something he heard little kids voices and decided it was better left alone. Two stewardesses standing in the emergency row in front of him were discussing their weekend plans.

“I’m gonna just layover for the weekend, there’s a great BBQ place I’ve always wanted to try out. And I’ve heard that the live music in the old-town district is fire.”

“So cool, I’ve never been into the city there. But I’m on call for the next two weeks.”

“No worries, we’ll go together next time for sure.”

I haven’t had a weekend break since before I can remember thought Tempo, Maybe I should’ve been a pilot like my dad.

“Attention please” announced the attendant from the front of the plane, “I’m sorry to announce that we may have a serious delay, there is an issue with our coffee maker. Maintenance is working on it at the moment, but if they can’t fix it we will need to switch planes.”

The mom behind Tempo groaned as commotion level in the plane jumped.

“Everything about flying is complicated, even the coffee maker.” said one stewardess shaking her head.

“Yeah, I heard they cost over ten thousand bucks a piece” said the other.

“Man, and I don’t even drink coffee” Tempo said to the guy sitting next to him.

“I bet Kendrick Lamar flies private so he doesn’t have to deal with this kinda stuff, must be nice to be a star.”

“Yeah, we all wanna be big stars, but some of us for different reasons.”

Tempo looked back out the window, Well my dad can’t afford to be flying private he thought, But then I’m not flying private either, his head dropped as he pursed his lips.

“Good news everyone, the coffee maker has been fixed.” announced the attendant, “We’ll be taking off shortly.”

“Yay!” said the mom behind Tempo, high-fiving her kids as a light round of applause echoed in the cabin.

“In the meantime, would you please direct your attention towards the front as we go over some important safety information …” the flight attendant continued, Tempo tuned it out and gazed out the window again, directing his thoughts to the festival.

“… and lastly we ask that you now ensure all electronic devices are in airplane mode and stowed for takeoff. Larger electronic devices such as laptops must be stowed during taxi, takeoff, and landing.“ the attendant finished up his announcement. Tempo put his phone into airplane mode and inhaled deeply through his nose, mentally rehearsing his performance as he exhaled again. It’s good to disconnect, to get lost from the world for a while he thought.

The plane backed out of the terminal, slowly turning to the left, then jutted forward into a slow taxi towards the end of the airfield. Taxiing always reminded Tempo of dance rehearsal, a struggle to elevate clumsy kinesics into pure art. Because of the flight delay there were no aircraft ahead of Tempo’s plane, and it rolled around the corner onto the runway in one large sweeping motion. Tempo was gently pressed back into his seat as the plane accelerated into takeoff, it never ceased to amaze him how something so big and heavy could all of the sudden move so fast. Faster and faster, but the ride was bumpy as cracks and seals in the runway pavement slapped under the landing gear. With the surprise of a peak dance move the plane was instant grace when it flew into the air. I guess we’re all at our best when we’re doing what we’re destined to do Tempo thought as his plane rose up towards a new adventure.

The world expanded out from his window and new lyrics formed in his mind, he began to envision his music from alternate perspectives.

“Welcome aboard folks, this is your pilot speaking. We are going to experience some turbulence during our ascent today. I’ve left the fasten seat belts sign on for you, please stay seated until we reach cruising altitude.”

The windows darkened as the plane rose into the rain clouds and Tempo couldn’t see anything out the window anymore, it was oddly peaceful and gloomy at the same time. He leaned his head back, closed his eyes and thought This is the artist’s life, rise above challenges and soar to new heights. Sudden bright sunlight opened Tempo’s eyes to see fluffy white clouds below.

“Fasten seat belt sign is now off, you are free to move about the cabin”

Clouds extended over the bright horizon like Tempo’s future.

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