They call Atlanta a leg. Another waits in New York. Jim thinks: two legs. As if air travel is a walk in the park.
Around him, passengers stoop beneath storage bins, flamingo themselves upon seats, flex limbs in the narrow aisle. Minutes pass, but no one is moving. He runs a finger down the window, as if that would clear the drops.
He jumps when a suitcase drops like a stone to the floor. Worried looks then laughter.
Yesterday, his younger brother said, “Don’t come. What the hell are you going to do?”
“I can be…I can help,” he said before walking himself back to silence.
His brother rambled about gambling: the bone-click of dice in palm, the throw and bounce, the hard black dots that said win or lose.
“Parkinson’s is not, there are treat—you can, can’t you—?”
There was no response to this awkward shaking out of words. In the long silence, Jim saw himself suspended in the dark, pitiless air between their continents, legs kicking, cold arms groping like a ghost.
“Finally!” a taut man sighs, as passengers begin to shuffle down the aisle.
Jim sits up, finds the loops of the black bag slouched on his lap. In another world, the woman to his right is still seated, smiling down at the sunshine of her screen.
It takes a broken engagement and two bottles of Merlot for her to finally take a vacation. Even with all the money she saved by calling off the wedding, she couldn’t bring herself to splurge on a non-stop flight. Just a quick layover in Atlanta and she’ll be far away from Texas and far away from him.
She absentmindedly touches the indent on her empty ring finger, only a couple days fresh. The absence of stone lingers like a ghost.
A pregnant woman stands in the aisle and asks for help with her carry on. A business man with a short temper yells to keep it moving. Some people have places to be.
A child exclaims that it’s raining and Liz leans over to look out the window. She quickly pulls out her phone and searches the weather for New York City. Sunny and 65. She smiles at her screen, romanticizing a week alone in the city that never sleeps. She can see herself now. Little black dress, deep red lips, fake laughing at a handsome stranger’s joke over Manhattans at the hotel bar. She hates whiskey, but you know the saying… When in New York.
She feels a tap on her shoulder and looks up with red cheeks, meeting the spectral eyes of the man in the window seat. Liz barely noticed him the entire flight, his gaze protracted and ghostly. He clears his throat and shyly points to the aisle, which is clearing as passengers make their way toward the exit.
They file, nod, mumble. That man there looks like he’s on his last legs. This young woman—seems she could use a drink. Because it’s raining, she smiles extra-brightly at them all, pouring all she has into her tired eyes, the cracked curves of her lips.
The cabin empty, she wanders with a bag down the aisle. Wrappers, flossers, wads of tissue. There’s a forgotten novel, a diaper, a spray of snack food dust. People can’t help but make a mess. An in-flight magazine stretches across Seat 16B. Sixteen: half a life since then. She reaches down, wondering where on earth she will go.
Victoria Giansante is a writer and editorial assistant based in South Jersey. She is on track to receive her MFA in May of 2022 and finishing up the final touches of her first novel, tentatively untitled. She comes from a small Italian family in New Jersey/ Philadelphia and spends most of her time with her rescue animals and a tall glass of wine.
Michael Cocchiarale is the author of the novel None of the Above (Unsolicited, 2019) and two short story collections–Here Is Ware (Fomite, 2018) and Still Time (Fomite, 2012). His creative work appears online as well, in journals such as Fictive Dream, Beliveau Review, The Disappointed Housewife, and Ovunque Siamo.