It happened all the time in little ways but the first time was the worst. She was coming home from Christmas holiday and I came to pick her up at the airport. I was early and nervous. We’d only been together for a month and I had missed her(more) too much when she was away, more than she missed me, I could tell. When we talked on the phone I felt like a bother, keeping her on the line too long. She had nothing much to say.
I sat in the baggage claim trying to read a book and play it cool. Why be anxious? She will think that’s weird. I was too antsy to read so I watched the baggage carousels slowly revolving, the passengers watch the luggage fall down the chutes, the friends and families and drivers watching the passengers watch the luggage hit the carousel.
“What if I don’t recognize her,” I thought, “What if I can’t remember what she looks like?” I was drawing a blank so I looked up a picture on my phone. “Okay, that’s her, of course that’s what she looks like.” I remembered a time when I carried paper pictures in my wallet. Sometimes even a drawing if it was dear to me.
When she came down the escalator with the other passengers I double checked the picture on the phone just to be sure. She looked different; shorter, plainer, I didn’t recognize her clothes. She was on her cell phone and didn’t seem to be looking for me.
“I’m wrong,” I said to myself, “maybe it’s another flight.” Then I recognized her boots as they walked straight to me.
“Hey. We’re carousel eight,” she said, still on the phone.
Crickets everywhere. You can hear them at night but you never actually see them. An invisible midnight choir.
We sat there sipping on gin and juice, half drunk and smiling like fools, listening to the crickets.
Neither of us had said anything for a while.
(more) "Do you ever feel like your heart's about to stop? And the only thing you can do to stop is hold your breath for as long as possible."
"That sounds like a medical condition."
"Not like that idiot!"
She kicks me playfully and lights another cigarette, I have never gotten tired of watching those legs move, even in violence against me.
"Sometimes... I don't know... never mind."
"No, no. I'm sorry"
"It's just that sitting here, listening to the night, you feel so small, and it just makes me so anxious, and I have to hold my breath to slow myself down."
"Still sounds like a medical condition, although one for a different kind of doctor."
She gets up and goes inside, throwing her cigarette away as she does. I sit there alone, sipping my drink, and debate if I should apologize. I light another cigarette and listen to the crickets. Suddenly, by myself they seem too loud, I am overwhelmed and remember reading that the United Nations estimated there 19 billion chickens on Earth.
This frightens me and I hold my breath to calm down.
She was mostly right. I light another cigarette and hold in each drag of smoke for as long as I can. I become lightheaded, and it makes the stars more swirly.
I realize its moments like this why relationships don't usually work out.
I am okay with everything.(less)