“Can you describe a time when someone betrayed you?” This question is posed to me by Jan during a round of The Ungame, which I play over lunch with a group of colleagues in our architecture firm on the 92nd floor. The Ungame looks deceptively like Candy Land but is described, in its product materials, as a game without winners. Or losers. What is the narrative of this game? “To know one another,” apparently. “To create a story together of who we are, alone and apart.” I’m reminded of long adolescent evenings, with Stacey and Joe and Shane and Steph, slowly beginning to feel the idiosyncrasies of our tiny lives, how we gifted each detail to one another without knowing their value, and for the first time in years, I miss them. I think about the question. About who has betrayed me. But cannot think of anyone. Other than myself, of course. Ha. Am I lucky? I giggle and believe for a moment that I must be winning the game. The Ungame.
I open my mouth to share this revelation with my colleagues, but Jan interrupts, waving me aside and directing our attention out the floor-to-ceiling window, freshly cleaned and gleaming. “What is that,” she asks, pointing into the clear blue sky. We all turn to look, some swiveling in office chairs, others shifting to peer around shoulders. “I don’t see anything,” Eric squints, leaning forward. But it’s there. Unmistakably it is there.
An airplane. Large. Suspended, sort of hovering, or just barely moving, some distance off from our building, waiting in the air, paused far above the Hudson. “It’s not moving,” someone states or asks.
Utterances of disbelief and questions of whether or not this is possible—a jumbo jet floating motionless in the sky—give way to alternate explanations. “It’s not an airplane, it’s a helicopter. See the rotors on top?” But it is an airplane, undeniably. We can make out the wings, just barely see the turbines, the long row of windows. “It’s an illusion, an advertisement,” someone offers. But it’s there, in 3D—patient, and not selling us a thing. “A blimp, a hoax, a conceptual art prank,” someone offers, or pleads really. This is the angle that gets the most traction, if only briefly: a joke, a gag. But even that explanation falls away when the news reports start rolling in, confirming our suspicions: a large passenger plane—a real one, with an origin and destination and ferrying actual passengers—floats immobile in the sky above the river, impossibly still, somewhere between New Jersey and Manhattan.