It was that damn kid. That crying baby did it. The couple next to me—tanned and ugly—argued about the hot sauce they’d have to throw away because someone forgot to put it in their checked luggage. I was lost in their back and forth: the wife flustered, her husband tense and swearing. It’s just fucking hot sauce. They made me appreciate flying alone. And then I remembered why I was flying alone. It was that damn kid. That crying baby did it. I was shuffling through the security line, boarding pass in hand, when my stomach twisted into knots. Knots that slowly made their way to my throat and sat there. I held my composure the entire day, why was this coming out now? That kid. Crying. He was calling to me, awakening every feeling I had been holding in since I hastily booked my flight. The damn broke and everything rushed out. I bowed my head so no one in line would see me crying, but it was no use. My shoulders began to heave, my leather-clad image reduced to a withering black dahlia. I’d never felt so empty and helpless. There I was, in the airport security line, wishing I could scream like the baby a few stations in front of me, but all I could do was hide my face in my oversized scarf and weep.
I made it to the front of the line and handed over my tear-dampened passport. The officer took one look at my face and didn’t bother to check my identification. He simply nodded and let me through. I unloaded my bag onto the conveyor belt, took off my shoes, my jacket, and the last to go…my scarf. I felt naked and vulnerable, standing there in my holy socks and grief. I wiped my face several times, but it just made it worse. I didn’t pack tissues with me, so all I had was my scarf, which was slowly making its way down the line.
I walked through the metal detector, collected my things as quickly as I could and sprinted through suitcases and strollers to the nearest bathroom. The last stall…handicapped…big enough to sit down. I was breathing heavily, short bursts, unable to control the sobs, which were so desperately trying to escape. I placed my bag on the bathroom floor and slid down the wall into a puddle of anguish. I held my head in my hands and cried. Heaving and sobbing and wishing I were that baby in line. His father was rocking him back and forth, cooing in his ear, “Everything is okay. We’re almost done.” I was on my way to spread my father into the Spokane River.
I composed myself, splashed cold water on my face, and made my way to the airport bar where I promptly order a whiskey ginger…double…with a lemon. “What are you having there?” the fat man next to me asked. He had a napkin strangled into his shirt collar. He sat slurping linguine, red in the face from his gin and tonic. I slowly looked up from my drink, my hair folded over most of my face, and starred at him. I gave him the “if-you-say-one-more-word-I-may-grab-that-fork-out-of-your-hand-and-stab-you-in-the-eye” look. I inhaled my drink; the warmth of whiskey filled me with sadness and familiarity. It was the best twelve dollars I ever spent.
I made my way to the gate and the sobs came right back. I hadn’t bothered to buy any tissues and after my drink, I didn’t care. I let the tears wash down my face; my sobs heard by everyone who was boarding my flight. I settled into a seat next to a man in a nice suit and reached out to whoever would listen. Tears streaming down my face, snot wetting my lips like Carmex, I called my best friend. “I wish I were there with you,” she said. “I know.” “I can’t believe this hasn’t happened sooner. You’ve been so strong.” Weitman. Weitman. Passenger Weitman, we are waiting for you to board the aircraft. “I have to go.”
I hid my head in my scarf and headed into the cold rainy night, across the tarmac, and into the two-seater. I was the last one to board and everyone was trying not to stare. I sat down and gave up. Safety in seat 23B.Tears washed down my face, following the barren trails that had been fresh just minutes before, like new memories replacing old.
Men in Husky jerseys talked about the game. Old women bragged about their grandchildren. Small talk swirled around my head. How could they be talking about such pointless things? My father just died, a little respect please. As I sat there, waiting for the plane to take off, I drifted in and out of consciousness. I was delirious with whiskey and remorse. I sat there, my head resting against the seat and my eyes closed, tears splashing against my clenched fists when I felt a hand on my knee. My eyes opened like curtains at a matinee. A withered hand glittering in gold sat gently on my knee. Like a wrecking ball, my neck craned slowly to the left to find the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. The overhead light seemed to cast a halo around her blonde bouffant, her eyes were as sparkling as the jewelry she was dripping in, and her scent of lilac quickly acted as an astringent. She bent towards me and softly said, “Honey, I know you don’t know me, but I’m here if you want to talk.” It was as if she had wrapped me in fleece and gave me a warm bottle of milk. It made me cry even more. She reminded me that memories and emotions come to you when you least expect it and so does humanity.
Jennifer Weitman graduated from Seattle University with a degree in creative writing. She is currently working on her Masters in Teaching. She has published two books, Zoo! Creatures of Curiosity and 40 Short Stories About Bikes.