Imagine this. You’re glancing out the window, watching the clouds float as you glide towards your future. The woman next to you twirls her iridescent earrings and turns the fan above her head, muttering about the clamminess.
Don’t you feel it too? she asks you to which you give a nonchalant shrug.
Your thoughts aren’t on the temperature, but of him. Thirty-eight thousand feet below, in his bedroom, listening to records whilst his narrow body reclines on his Star Wars bedsheets. Your thoughts so singular you are blind, caring not for your surroundings.
So uncomfortable, she continues, now batting her hands madly in the air.
You close your eyes, feigning sleep. You let your mind drift, to the previous night, when you too lay carefree on his bed, patting down R2D2, whilst you watched a film. One of you is enjoying it, the proximity, the bareness of the others ankle, the softness of such skin teasing. One of you is in love with the other. The other is so adroit at missing such clues, they are oblivious.
I’ll miss you, you know, he says, when you’re travelling in America. You’re going to make the most incredible memories and come home a completely different person.
You close your eyes and swallow. You like who you are just now. You enjoy your life, there is nothing wrong with it. Everybody tells you that when you leave, you will return a better person, that you are lucky for this experience, that it will change your life. But all you want is him. You cannot see yourself existing in a different time zone without him by your side, where he has always been.
I’ll miss you too, you say, I…
What is it?
No. It’s nothing.
You sure? Because you can tell me anything. You know that.
No. It’s nothing.
You swallow your syllables whole. You want to say so much more. You wish you were eloquent, expert with words and able to tell him the truth. You do not know as an adult, you will develop such skills and look back on your younger self, feeling desperately sad you were unable to express yourself freely at such a tender age. That sadness will take permanent residency inside you as you look back at all the missed opportunities throughout your youth with him. You do not know, as you sit on the plane, pummelling towards your future, that when you return, three months later, he will no longer be for you for he will be bound to another. Not that he was ever for you to begin with. But your lack of boldness, that night, before America, will leave you questioning, forever guessing, what ifs and you will never know.
You leave his room, the childhood bedroom of your best friend, walk home and sleep. You think of his face which you know better than your own as the excitement of America bubbles in your stomach, a bittersweet sensation.
Ridiculous. This heat, the woman says, her elbows prodding your ribs as your eyes ping open in discomfort. You check your watch. Four more hours to go. Four more hours until your future, as they say, begins. When you will be eight hours behind him. He will have lived his day without you whilst yours just begins, without him. Loneliness catches in your throat and you swallow it. There is no place for loneliness on a plane, surrounded by people, all chasing dreams, looking forward, never back. A plane full of strangers. Time passes. Three hours to go. Two hours. One hour.
The plane lands, sending your body forward with a jolt as the woman beside you complains of whiplash. You stifle a laugh, having grown quite fond of her, finding her bitterness slightly comical. You wish her luck and make your way from the plane as the foreign wind caresses your skin. You walk with the crowd, with an eagerness in your eye, noticing the same shared expression upon those you step in time with, feeling secretly bonded. The world is yours, and, with every step you take, you leave him and the life you know, behind.
Hannah Sutherland is a Scottish writer. Her short story The Encounter is currently shortlisted for the Aurora Prize in Writing 2020. She has writing published in Product Magazine, WriteNow: A Literary Journal and Milkyway Magazine. Forthcoming work will be in Remington Review Fall 2020, Fahmidan Journal and the Dark Poets Club. She can be found on Twitter @HannahWrites88