Cuf­fer prize en­tries

By Brid­get Can­ning Honourable men­tion for the Cuf­fer Prize 2015

The Telegram (St. John’s) - - LIFE -

You are at the air­port too early. You know this, but at home you couldn’t stop clock-watch­ing and check­ing your pass­port in your carry-on. Might as well get here and stop think­ing about get­ting here. — From “Hands in Pocket,” By Brid­get Can­ning Honourable men­tion for the Cuf­fer Prize 2015

You are at the air­port too early. You know this, but at home you couldn’t stop clock-watch­ing and check­ing your pass­port in your carry-on. Might as well get here and stop think­ing about get­ting here.

In the check-in lineup, you en­sure there are no coins in your pock­ets or ob­vi­ous metal dis­trac­tions. You are ready.

You get your board­ing pass and check your suit­case and there is over 90 min­utes un­til board­ing. This will be your day: travel limbo and over­priced air­port food, $4 bot­tles of wa­ter.

You tuck your board­ing pass into your pass­port and reach into your carry-on to check it once on the way to the bath­room and once again when you take a seat in the lounge area; your fin­ger­tips rec­og­nize the slim vinyl cover, the strip of card­board, there it is, still there. Sean would call you antsy — he did call you antsy, the time on the ferry to St-Pierre and you kept slid­ing your hand into your purse. He said, what do you think they’re go­ing to do if your pass­port is gone? Curse you out in French and make you swim back to For­tune? And then he was the one who let his pass­port ex­pire.

There are two men sit­ting across from you. One is a cop and the other wears pale blue pants with a match­ing shirt. They are hand­cuffed to­gether. You no­tice other pas­sen­gers notic­ing them, eye­ing the hand­cuffed con­nec­tion be­tween the two men and the chain link­ing the pris­oner’s feet. A guy with dark-framed glasses and a beard and an iPhone stares hard at them and texts. Maybe he’s tweet­ing about them. Maybe a com­plaint about tax dol­lars spent pay­ing for pris­oner travel. Maybe a joke about carry-on lug­gage.

You take out your own phone. There is a text from Sean: Have a good flight xo. When you left, he was still in bed and he sat up to kiss you good­bye. His hair was stuck up on the pil­low side of his head and he still smelled a lit­tle rummy. He didn’t no­tice that you were leav­ing early, but you had the sense that he was wait­ing for you to leave. Last night, the both of you went for drinks with Todd and An­nie and when Todd said, too bad you’re not go­ing too, buddy, Sean gave this re­signed sigh and you wanted to flip over the ta­ble. At home af­ter­wards, you said to him, so now you’re go­ing to act like you want to come and he said, why are you keep­ing score of my re­ac­tions?

The pris­oner is fall­ing asleep. His mouth hangs crum­pled and open, like a card­board box that’s been stepped on. You can’t tell if his eye­lids are com­pletely closed and sud­denly you are overly present; there are no other peo­ple around you, if his eyes open, you will be where he will look. You hold your phone like you’re go­ing to call some­one and move to the hall­way. There is a bench close to the gates and you sit down, hold­ing your phone like you’re speak­ing into it. No one is watch­ing you. Put your phone away. You are ridicu­lous.

A line of peo­ple wait to go into se­cu­rity. You watch a man and woman hug and kiss good­bye. She touches his face; he has just the right amount of hand­some scruff and her hair is tou­sled in a way that looks like she just crawled off him. The man goes in­side and then waves and mouths things at the woman from the other side of the glass. She ges­tures and mouths things back. You watch them and it re­minds you of a story you heard about a cou­ple, both deaf/mute, but they had a hear­ing/speak­ing daugh­ter. When she was a tod­dler, she threw silent tem­per tantrums, fake wail­ing in gro­cery stores, her hov­er­ing par­ents try­ing to calm her, in­dex fin­gers shhh-sig­nalling on their lips.

It was Sean who told you that story; the deaf cou­ple was re­lated to his col­lege room­mate. Both of them deaf since birth, but only the woman knew proper sign lan­guage; the man used his own sys­tem of ges­tures and pan­tomimes. Sean said they would come in to take his room­mate out for lunch and in­vite him along. He said when they dis­agreed, they would reach out and clasp each oth­ers’ hands to stop their words, phys­i­cally in­ter­rupt­ing each other. The last time Sean told that story, he said, those peo­ple could re­ally com­mu­ni­cate, and you thought there was a pointed tone in his voice, a bit of stank on those peo­ple.

You watch a slen­der blond woman join the se­cu­rity queue. She wears a white fleece jacket, ex­pen­sive-look­ing yoga pants and flip-flops. You should have done that, dressed in things that are soft, but look clean and crisp. At least you could have worn shoes that don’t lace up. And you could have brought a hat, some­thing to hide the travel-fraz­zled hair that man­i­fests from re­cy­cled air and re­mov­able head­rests. Th­ese things and some­thing to re­move the layer of anx­i­ety and pub­lic germs. A cou­ple of moist tow­elettes in your bag wouldn’t have been so hard.

Or you could de­cide not to care. You could get drunk on the plane. Or start drink­ing now, go into the air­port restau­rant, shoot shit with the bar­tender. You could pre­tend to be an Amer­i­can tourist on your way home. You could or­der some­thing you never nor­mally drink: a Har­vey Wall­banger, a Vodka Gim­let. But would it re­lax you or lead you to do some­thing stupid: for­get your phone on the bar, walk away with­out your Visa card.

You reach in your carry-on to touch your pass­port and your fin­gers swim through the empty ex­panse of your bag and your heart jumps to its feet but there it is, your pass­port just shifted deeper in the pocket when you sat down; re­lax, you fool­ish thing.

You check the time. In 10 min­utes, you’ll go through se­cu­rity. You’ll let your­self sink into a seat by the gate and put in your ear­buds. Then it’s just wait­ing to be told what to do.

When the plane lands and you re­claim your lug­gage, you will change up some cash and put a small amount in your fake wal­let, in case you get mugged. You will put a larger amount in your travel belt and later you will hide some in the se­cret pocket in the lin­ing of your suit­case. You will go out for sup­per.

You will avoid the ques­tions that floated into or­bit when Sean said he has too much work and get­ting his pass­port re­newed is too much frig­ging around. But what will you do? What will you do if you meet some­one? Some­one who might pay com­pli­ments, which Sean says is a shal­low prac­tice. Some­one who doesn’t wait for you to ini­ti­ate.

Some­one who might make you feel fresh and novel for a lit­tle while. Your pass­port and board­ing pass sit in the carry-on, wait­ing to be touched.

Brid­get Can­ning lives in St. John’s where she teaches and writes. Her writ­ing has been pub­lished in Galleon Mag­a­zine, Land­wash, and Paragon Jour­nal. Last year, she won an Arts and Let­ters Award for Short Fic­tion as well as third prize in Quar­ter Cas­tle Pub­lish­ing’s Short Story Con­test.

You take out your own phone. There is a text from Sean: Have a good flight xo. When you left, he was still in bed and he sat up to kiss you good­bye. His hair was stuck up on the pil­low side of his head and he still smelled a lit­tle rummy. He didn’t no­tice that you were leav­ing early, but you had the sense that he was wait­ing for you to leave.

THINK­STOCK PHOTO

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.