At the airport they escorted me to the side
where I stood waiting to be patted down
and examined. “It’s standard procedure,”
said the man ahead of me in line. He had brown hair
and sunglasses. “Happens to me almost every time.”
I sniffed back tears and wrapped my arms around me.
“You okay?” he asked. “Yeah,” I replied, “just–”
I took a breath. Airports are not for crying.
“I’m just leaving my partner here.” He nods at me
looks understanding. “Yeah, that’s tough.”
They lead him past the rope corralling us
and suddenly I’m alone. They wipe down his backpack
they test his shoes. They let him go. I ignore
the tears as they take me next, trying to understand
her broken English, my broken Spanish
neither as broken as my heart.
In the airplane I counted the rows until
I found my seat at the window: a woman
sat there, staring onto the desolate
tarmac of Mexico City, her eyes
as tear-stained as mine.
I didn’t ask her to move. I couldn’t
bring myself to disturb her
and I didn’t care enough to bother.
I took the middle seat, hopeful
that no one else would claim it.
I shoved my bag between my feet and tried to breathe
but all that came forth were more sobs
thick globs of tears, my face torn up
my lungs made raw, my back bent, doubled over
unable to let it go or reign it in.
Finally, I asked her, “Are you alright?”
and she nodded, but said nothing else
When our plane began taxiing toward the runway
she looked at me and said, “Are you leaving family too?”
and as the tears filled my eyes again, I answered
“Yes, I am.” She was coming back to the US
but her mother was staying behind. She’d come for a funeral
and I was meeting my boyfriend. It didn’t seem fair
that we had to leave. That our families, our family
couldn’t come home beside us.
Between flights I waited in traveler’s limbo
this hellish place of transition, missed steps
and marketing that baffles the body and dulls the mind.
I walked between terminals. I could’ve taken the train
but I wanted solitude. Silence. Stifling tears.
At the end of the line I let myself cry.
I pored over the words I whispered to him
through touchscreens and cyberspace. What did I say?
What could I say? Should I tell him how broken I felt
that I couldn’t stop crying?
I told him the plane arrived safely. I told him
everything I was afraid to say
and he listened. I wasn’t alone.