You Are Barely Leaving Your Country

You book your own flights. You don’t have a fancy assistant who does these sorts of things. You are scheduled to read your poetry at a conference in Montreal in April. You are leaving a different conference in Denver the day before the Montreal reading. You are not from Denver. You are from Atlanta. You have already caught a flight from Atlanta to Denver and back again to Atlanta and now off to a connecting flight in Chicago. Things will not go as smoothly as they do for you most times.

You will cry in an airport out of frustration and fear. Rushing and dawdling flyers alike will sidestep you. You are sobbing because it’s only when you’re at O’Hare that you realize you have booked a flight to Quebec City and not Montreal. You remember that this is your fault since you don’t have an assistant. You learn that weeping travelers make most airport workers uneasy. The people who work at the airline try to get you on a flight to Montreal but it will cost money that only someone with an assistant has and will only get you to Montreal after your scheduled reading.

As you think about how you could have made such an error when booking the flight—what were you doing? Were you on the phone? Were you lost in your cup of black tea? How many other things were you doing instead of booking the correct airport?—the kind man who has been trying to help you tells you that your flight to Quebec City is about to leave and what would you like to do. You decide to pull it together as best you can and take the flight. You, forever Type A, think you’ll just have to figure out what to do when you get to Quebec City, 160 miles away from Montreal.

Since you’re the last person on the flight to Quebec City, you take it all in. You take in the smallest plane you’ve most likely ever been on. You think there’s not room in here for anxiety. There are custom forms to fill out after all. You nudge Bon Iver in your ears. You fall asleep. When you wake up, panic expands in the Quebec City airport. Since you arrive so late, the bus station is closed. You say merci too often and poorly in the dark to the cab driver.

You make your way to a seedy motel that refuses to read your key card twice. You try to sleep for three hours before you have to be up to catch the first bus to Montreal. You don’t remember how to behave on a bus. The last time you were on a bus was in middle school. You dangle your feet underneath you. You notice how large they make bus windows now. You wonder if this is a Canadian feature. Still, you want them to be bigger when you see the sun rise as you approach Montreal.

You get to your hotel. You change clothes. You read your poetry at the conference. You walk around the city because you worked so very hard to get there. You walk around because you made it there in a roundabout way, didn’t you? At dusk, the strongest wind you’ve ever felt in your life pushes through the city. You hide in between two buildings you can’t remember the names of. You wait the wind out. And, with your hair whipping around you, you remember that it’s so much bigger than you. You remember that so much is bigger than you really.


Jenny Sadre-Orafai is the author of the chapbook Weed Over Flower. Her poetry has appeared in Poemeleon, Boxcar Poetry Review, Gargoyle, h_ngm_n, and other journals. Sadre-Orafai’s prose has appeared in numerous anthologies, Ships That Pass, and The Los Angeles Review. She is an Assistant Professor of English at Kennesaw State University.

Categories: Airports, Airplanes

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