Early that morning, they boarded a plane that would fly them to their daughter’s college graduation in Spokane, Washington. They carefully stowed their carry-ons in an overhead compartment and slid down their row. He eased himself into the middle seat when she claimed the window. She yawned. Outside, a black suitcase rolled its way up the conveyer belt. Then another. She watched both until they disappeared from view.
“We don’t have to tell her,” he whispered. He examined an evacuation foldout, fingered the corners where the lamination curled. “Suppose we don’t say anything.”
She continued staring out the window.
He cleared his throat loudly and turned to see if anyone was watching.
For a morning flight, the plane was unexpectedly empty. Behind him, a businessman unfolded the crisp pages of a newspaper. In the next row, a mother and father helped their son rescue an action figure that had fallen to the floor. He turned back to his wife. “But, seriously,” he said. “As her father, I think I should have some say in how we break the news.”
She patted his knee. “Maybe it would be best if we stopped talking for a while,” she said. She removed a magazine from the seat pocket in front of her and studied the cover. Her eyebrows wrinkled. Then she flipped to an article.
In the meantime, he busied himself by adjusting the air-conditioning above his head. He cracked each of the knuckles on his right hand. Then his left. He checked the time. “I called earlier to tell her our flight info and she sounded happy,” he said.
She turned a page. “Yeah?”
“Yeah,” he said. “I think she’s in love. Do you think she’s in love?”
“I don’t know.” She closed the magazine.
“I hope she is,” he said.
“I hope she is, too,” she said.
Each stared off, blankly, for a time. Then they watched two flight attendants bustling up and down the aisles, closing overhead compartments, checking seatbelts. Soon, they would be airborne.
They had barely finished their cups of orange juice when the captain turned the fasten seatbelt sign off.
He stood. “I’ll be right back,” he told her. He took his cup with him, turning it in his hands while he sidestepped down the aisle toward the bathroom at the back of the plane.
A young man and woman were already there. Arms crossed. Waiting. They did not look at him. The woman tapped her shoe against the carpet. When the bathroom door swung open, they stepped quickly through the doorway and closed the door. The lock snapped into place. He stood quietly staring at the door.
Back in his seat, he did not tell her about the couple. She would have craned her neck to peer around the plane. “Which ones are they?” And he might not have been able to find them. “You should’ve worn your glasses,” she’d say. Or worse, he would have spotted them and pointed them out, and she would’ve condemned them with the same stare she had used on him.
He thought about the couple. He thought of all the women he had slept with. He twisted his wedding ring around his finger.
His wife sat resting next to him. It was difficult to imagine his life without her. He bit the inside of his lip.
A bell chimed throughout the cabin and the captain made a quick, final announcement. They would be arriving in Spokane on time and would begin their descent shortly.
His wife pulled her seat to its fully upright position, leaned over to him. And even before she opened her mouth and the words spilled over him — Let’s just make it through the weekend — he knew that soon he’d find himself on the ground, where their daughter would stand waiting at the terminal with her boyfriend, and that soon, they would give her the news.
Ryan Shiroma holds his MFA from Eastern Washington University. His previous work has appeared (or is forthcoming) in Live Wire, Almost Five Quarterly, Breakwater Review, Penumbra, Double Dare Press, and Konundrum Engine Literary Review. In 2007, he placed third in Zoetrope’s Short Fiction Contest. He lives with his wife in Southern California, where he teaches English at Fullerton College and West Coast University. He’s currently working on his first novel.