vapor-trail

Bienvenue à New York
by Meredith Turits

The plane touched down in Brussels, and here’s what I did. Actually, it’s so stupid and embarrassing that I almost don’t want to say it, but with my brother gone, I’ve officially become the last person with anything to hide.

So, right. The plane touched down at BRU, Aéroport de Bruxelles-National, the airport I know better than any one on the planet. I clenched the armrest and turned to the seat next to me and I swore I was ready to put my hand in the person sitting next to me’s hand, something I always used to do with my brother, but, well, for one you can’t do that with strangers, and what’s really worth mentioning is that no one was there. No one in the seat. It was first class and there was no one next to me even though every other seat in the section was full. We touched down and I was shaking for no reason I could discern, digging my nails into the black leather so hard that I left scratch marks. The pilot said, “Bienvenue à Bruxelles” so loudly that the intercom started to crackle. Everyone around me clicked their seatbelts undone; you know, that sound that is so totally distinctive, and I still sat even when the flight attendant opened the gate and all of the first class passengers started leaving and then everyone else in coach did, too, and I heard “au revoir, au revior” every second.  There was English, too, plenty of it, but for some reason, it’s not what was ringing in my head. And when the plane finally emptied, when I heard the last clatter of an overhead bin being emptied, I unlatched my seatbelt, too, and finally stood up. Of course, I hit my head on the compartment. Of course. The flight attendant asked me if I was okay, first in English, then again in French, adding, “Mademoiselle? Mademoiselle?” I nodded and rubbed my eyes, and she went to open my overhead container but didn’t say anything because she had no idea which language to continue in, and this sort of pleased me for whatever reason. She got my carry-on—it’s this beaten-up-as-shit tan bag that used to belong to him, which I was so happy to see the minute she dug it up—handed it to me, and then looked over my shoulder at the vodka mini-bottles sticking out of the seatback pocket. I nodded again and she said, “Enjoy Brussels” as I walked past her and out onto the jet bridge. And then I passed out.

I’d gone to New York to find him. To apologize. To tell him I was sorry for letting it happen. For goading him into it, because it was every bit as much my fault as it was his, even though I blamed it all on him. I thought a lot about what I noticed after he left. I noticed that I didn’t notice anything when he was there, and that I had to think about how to ask, how to require. How to parse a demand from a request. I didn’t realize they were different. So I went to New York to change history as much as I could. I had no idea how to start—looking, finding, explaining—but I went. I was there for four solid days on a lead from the family lawyer who controlled my brother’s trust fund. A neighborhood: Park Slope, and an address I staked out and lingered around. Whatever.

The point is I never saw him. I knocked on the door and no response. I hung around coffee spots, places I thought he might appreciate. Ate food he’d like. Things like that, and I put thought into it, too.

I drank my way through the days. I fucked my way through a place to stay.

And then, on the fourth day I thought I saw him. So I ran all the way back to JFK.

I woke up at a table, sitting in an airport wheelchair in that little room where they take people who are suspicious or carrying produce or both, and I saw two fat guards eating big sandwiches and plates of fries and talking to each other. One noticed my eyes open and said to me, “Ça va?” and I said, “Yeah, I’m fine” in English but he continued on in French and asked me if I needed to see a doctor or if I wanted some water.  And I replied, “I think I made a mistake.”

He kept watching me with this look in his eyes like he knew he shouldn’t. He knew he should have called someone, but we faced off in a staring contest, except his eyes were as soft as the flesh on his midsection, and he was trying to look into me, trying to figure me out. I could barely focus on anything.

“Mistake,” he said. “Which is this mistake?”

Before I could answer, he stood up and got a squat bottle of water from a mini-fridge in the corner of the room, the kind you put in a kid’s lunchbox, and walked it over to me.

“Thanks,” I said. My breath was stuck in my throat, the sensation of steel wool on the roof of my mouth. I tried to uncap the water, but my grip wasn’t even strong enough to break the plastic seal. The guard reached back out and grabbed the bottle from me, and his fingers brushed against mine when he grabbed it. He jumped back when the tip of my nail hit his hand. The other guard just sat in the corner of the room near the empty food containers in the garbage, and he couldn’t stop watching.

“Thanks. Merci,” I said again, when the water bottle was open. It was down on the table in front of me. I noticed my shoes were off. “Can I go?”

“Are you okay, miss? We have the nurse, she could probably come look,” the water bottle guard said. He had a grease stain on his uniform lapel.

I found my shoes under the table with my feet and forced them back on, and gripped the table to make sure I was steady enough to pull myself back up.

“I’m fucking great,” I said. “How do I get out of here?”

But none of that’s actually the part that’s embarrassing. Okay, I drank too much and got anxious. This really isn’t news or anything. The part that’s so absurd is that after I cleared customs and got into the main part of the airport, I took a look at the departures board, and now, not three hours later, I’m sandwiched between an Asian guy and a teenage boy on a plane right back to New York.

Meredith Turits lives and writes in Brooklyn. She is a senior editor at Bustle.com, and her work has appeared in publications including Joyland, Corium, Anobium, Bookslut, Full Stop, the Tottenville Review, and Glamour. She can be found on her blog and on Twitter.

Image credit: “horizon to horizon, memory written on the wind” by Robert S. Donovan.

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