I slide into an Eames chair and dig through my bag, then pour the contents onto the connecting seat. It’s not there. I slip my hand into the front pocket, where my keys had turned up last Christmas after an hour-long extended-family search party had failed to locate them when I’d “lost” them at my brother’s house.
My plane leaves in an hour, not enough time to go home for my phone and still make my flight. I could buy a prepaid phone, but I couldn’t use it—I don’t know any phone numbers. All I know are the ordinals on my speed-dial: Voice mail is No. 1, Caroline No. 2. I’m just realizing my former business partner is No. 4 and I haven’t spoken to him in two years. Mom is No. 5 which I hope to god she never finds out.
This cannot be happening.
But it is. I’m about to get on a plane to St. Louis to rendezvous with a man I’ve only met over the phone for a week-long river cruise to Minneapolis and I don’t have my only link to anything remotely connected to my real life.
Did I mention he’s married?
Only nominally, of course. For the kids. They sleep in separate bedrooms, did I mention that? He says they’re really just roommates.
Anyway, I’m supposed to meet him in the St. Louis airport in four hours, after I let him know I’ve arrived with a call from the phone I’m now thinking is…on the vanity, in my bathroom?
Wait…I can do this. I mean, I know the guy’s name, right? You always hear those airport intercom directives for Party A to meet Party B at Location C. So when I get to St. Louis I’ll just pick up the courtesy phone and input my info and the computer voice will say, “This is Continental Airlines with a message for Mr. Married Guy. Please meet your ‘party’—no pun intended—at Baggage Claim 13. She has long brown hair and no phone.” How hard is that!
I board the plane.
I find my seat, settle in, and realize: I have forgotten my drugs. Ever since my sister locked me in a closet when I was seven I have been a raging claustrophobic, incapable of tolerating tight spaces without the assistance of a prescription cocktail comprising an anti-anxiety pill spiked with a mild narcotic. I can’t even sit on the tarmac without it but this time, inexplicably, I have left it at home.
I try. I breathe deep, put my head between my knees. But the ceiling is too close to my head and the seat back in front of me too close to my chest.
I wave down a flight attendant.
“I think I’m sick. Can I get off? I don’t have checked bags, just carry-on.”
“Yes,” she says, “But you have to go now. And you might not be able to get back on.”
“That’s OK,” I say. “I need to go home.”
I leave the terminal and retrieve my car from long-term parking. The drive home is shorter that I expected, and as soon as I am inside the house I see my phone: not in the bathroom, as I’d imagined, but on the table by the front door. I must have left it when I picked up my keys.
I pick it up and hit Speed-Dial No. 3, Compose Text. “I’m not coming,” I tap. “I’m sorry. Have a good cruise.”