Nothing Left To Miss
By Tori Malcangio
That kind of missing. It’s like this giant love hole that must be dug in two separate places, simultaneously, and then when the time is right, the tunnels meet underground, in the dark, all hungry and pleading and impatient.” I was gushing, overdoing it to shake him out of some sort of syrupy funk. He picked up his guitar, dropped his head, and strummed “Layla.”
I packed one small suitcase. He watched, adding to the top of my clothes, his favorite book: a hardcover about fending off worry with proper nutrition. He worried that I worried as much as he did.
“So when will I hear from you?” he asked.
“When I forget what your voice sounds like.”
“I’m kidding, I’m kidding. When I find a phone that works.”
“You like this don’t you? You like feeding me your bitch soup.”
“It’s Costa Rica hon,” I said laughing and squeezed his knee.
He plucked a B-chord.
So I tried pandering: “How about I write then?”
“You’re only there for a week,” he said.
“Exactly my point,” I said, and kissed him with all the surface area of my lips pressed to his; how I’d want to be kissed if I were him and wondering what time apart had to do with time together.
He didn’t drop me off curbside; he parked in the pricey lot and carried my bags as far as someone could without a boarding pass. Inside, everyone hustled; even if they’d just arrived, they were in a hurry to depart. Somewhere. The white paging phone to our left was blinking with a message. Who does that? Who actually knows what number to dial for the white paging phone operator?
“Call me when you land, so I know you’re there,” he said, handing me a scrap paper scribbled with what looked to be a calling card number. “Then you’re free to forget me.”
I said that I would. I would call, and no I wouldn’t forget him. With another kiss, I flattened his lips underneath mine, pressed them like suit pants.
At the top of the descending escalator, he hesitated, waved. Was he waiting for an invite, a seat next to mine? Hoping for some sort of feeble gesture that implied hearts torn in two, sorrow, retching love sickness?
I waved back then quickly turned away in case that gender-encoded obligation to blow a kiss, or tilt my head in apology kicked in.
I was thinking about lift, wings, altitude. How I was about to be 38,000 feet above him. How it takes about 60 seconds per 12,000 feet to hit the ground. How I was going to watch the world underneath me move in tiny increments, each a solitary tick-tick on a timepiece. How I was going to be scared, really scared up that high. About what? About wanting to stay that high. Or maybe about coming down too fast, wires and wings tumbling, then crumpling into a strip mall. And how in that moment, that three-minute plunge, the beverage cart would slam and I’d scream and turn to the woman in a St. John’s knit next to me with nothing to say, our eyes stripped back to their red veins, our hands touching, hesitant just in case all of it was a false alarm and once the plane landed, we’d go back to being strangers. The three-minute free-fall would include my mind’s slideshow of fuck-ups, missteps with relationships, the note I left him, the dismissive swagger in my handwriting. The “y” at the end of my name, Marcy, had a wild, curling tail so characteristic of someone who enjoyed the catch-and-release concept: hook him quick and let him go quicker—with minimal damage. The note was right there on his nightstand, signed “Marcy.” Just “Marcy.”
Maybe on the tarmac, before take-off, before the engine failed, I’d have a chance to tell the woman next to me about the note. I’d justify it; explain I had to do it before there was nothing left to miss. And she’d offer me one of her drink coupons for staying true to myself. Though I’d be uncertain what that meant, it didn’t matter; I’d be found with gin and tonic in my gut, parts of me spread like seed across a patch of farmland off the interstate, unmarried, single, free.
The ticket agent took my boarding pass, and with it the scrap of paper, now wet with hand-sweat and folded neatly in a square to hide the long, convoluted number he’d written down for me. Then you’re free to forget me.
The engine roared and the force shoved my head into the headrest. The cars, the houses, the blue dots of pools, the life he thought we were patching together faded to the insignificant fragments they really were. I was gone and he didn’t know it yet.
Tori Malcangio is a freelance advertising copywriter living in San Diego and considering a move to a
smaller, less expensive, more seasonal town. A place with a bakery, a butcher
shop, one road in and out and strange, lonesome people with really strange
histories. Tori's stories have appeared in ZYZZYVA, SmokeLong Quarterly , and The San Diego Reader, and another is forthcoming in Pearl Magazine.
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