Nothing Looks as Empty as the Chair You’re Not Sitting In

by Amy Rossi

2nd Place: Flash 405 November 2015, “Roots”

Three hours after we were supposed to leave and two hours since our last update, I walk around the gate area, trying to loosen the aggressive wrench around my chest. I pass the pilot at a computer. “We’re not even in the system anymore,” he says.

I’m not supposed to hear this.

It’s another fifteen minutes before someone announces they gave our plane away to the six o’clock flight—they were supposed to get to Raleigh before us, anyhow. As though there’s a preschool sense of fairness to be imposed upon the situation.

In the rebooking line, I give up struggling not to cry and just try to do it quietly. The person in front of me turns around and asks, “Are you okay?” in a way that suggests she spends lots of time with her loved ones. I try to explain I haven’t seen my family in a year, not since last Christmas. What I really mean is: good daughters don’t stay away this long.

I finally get rebooked, then go back to my apartment for a few hours before taking a cab back to Logan at four a.m. The cab you get at four a.m. is not the cab you want to be in. The driver keeps stopping, seeing if other people are going to the airport. This isn’t a caravan, I don’t say.

On my second trip through security in less than twelve hours, I’m selected for a random extra search. Sure. Why not. Joke’s on them; I haven’t showered since yesterday morning.

The new flight is smooth, and there’s no trace of the unexpected snowstorm that upended yesterday’s travel. Making my connection is only forty-two percent as overwhelming as I thought it would be. Everything works hard in concert to mock my anxiety. What were you so upset about? Or even: this was your plan all along. My mother and sister come to get me together, and as I’m gathered into the car, that yearlong gap starts to close.

Sometime last night, or was it this morning, when I was leaving the rebooking agent with my cab vouchers, a woman stopped me in the no man’s land between security and where my checked bag could be collected. “Where did you come from?” she asked. I stood there with my parka and dirty purple carry-on, and tears streamed down my face, because how in the hell did I know.

Amy Rossi has previously appeared in the Sonora Review, Ninth Letter‘s web edition, and Hayden’s Ferry Review, where she received an honorable mention in their 2014 flash prose contest. She’s currently completing her MFA in Louisiana, working on a novel, and blogging about 80s metal.

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