By Taylor McKay Hathorn
At first, he tells her his flight is cancelled, and it is. Intrepid Flight 8832 from O’Hare to LaGuardia is cancelled, the marquee advertises in scrolling, unapologetic letters. Something to do with engine trouble, or maybe the pilot, or hell if he knows.
It had been delayed from 7:42 AM to 10:53 AM and then again to 5:55 PM before they swallow their pride and all the vouchers they’ll have to give and finally call it altogether. They offer to rebook them on a flight at 2:25 AM. Most of the solo travellers – businessmen with Macbooks, college students with Airpods – accept: what’s a few more hours in an airport chair if it means they can still get back to their board meeting or their dorm room by tomorrow?
The families refuse, citing tired children who are on the verge of a tantrum, or in many cases, are already on the weepy other side of it. He doesn’t particularly want to stay at the Airport Marriott, listening to planes that aren’t his taking off and landing all night long, but he doesn’t especially want to inconvenience his long-suffering wife and ask her to be at the airport at 5 AM. She will do it, he knows, will be in the arrivals lane in sweatpants with a coffee, will smile at him and say something about the best-laid plans and unreliable airlines.
He will kiss her, a proper kiss since he’s been gone for so many weeks, and she will touch his hair, and they’ll linger over the glove box for an instant before she puts both of her hands on the wheel, at 10 and 2. He can almost hear her swear under her breath as she turns her blinker on to merge into too-fast traffic when he pulls out his phone to text her: Sorry about the early pick-up time, but – The little smiling face coupled with the dancing woman in the red dress that she sends back in reply is enough to make him tell the gate agent that he doesn’t want the hefty voucher, thanks, he wants to go home.