The husband and wife have couples therapy scheduled for the day after her return. It’s a dodgy plan at best because there are so often travel delays to and from California to their place in upstate New York. There are never less than two connections, it’s an especially long travel day on the way east, and she’s always tired from ten days of work. The husband will not be meeting her at the airport, the husband will not be sending her loving texts telling her to breathe, that everything will be okay. The husband may as well be sending her texts that say Nothing is going to be okay ever. I lied. Don’t bother breathing.
A flight delay in Phoenix lands her in Philadelphia long past the last flight home. Sometime after midnight, all passengers with connecting flights are directed to guest relations to pick up hotel vouchers. It’s a long walk from their gate to a long line at guest relations. It’s twelve thirty. It’s one a.m. It’s one thirty. Just breathe, everything will be okay. It doesn’t work as well when you try to tell yourself. There are no more hotel vouchers, I’m terribly sorry for the inconvenience. There are also no rooms at no hotels in no city near Philly. There’s one in some suburb thirty miles away, do you want that? The wife knows how that will go. It will maybe get her a nap in a bed before she has to turn around and come back to the airport and unpack and repack and go through security again and and and no she does not want that. She wants this airline to make her husband get his shit together, call him on the phone right now and wake him up and tell him he fucked up and to just get his shit together. She grabs onto the counter so she will not fall on the floor from the breakdown that is about to happen. Here’s a fifteen-dollar voucher for food anywhere in the airport. If you go to information at Gate Whatever they will get you a cot and a blanket.
Where is that? Is it on the other side of the airport? It’s one a.m. I’ve been traveling all day, I’ve been traveling through this goddamned airport to get to this desk for a hotel voucher, I cannot travel beyond this counter so far as that chair behind me, just give me a pillow for my head, I’ll put it right here on the counter. My husband is leaving me. She maybe doesn’t say that last thing.
A guy in one of those carts pulls up.
Here, this guy will give you a ride to the info desk.
I’m sorry, she says to the cart guy, unable to stop crying. Cart guy shrugs. Cart guy doesn’t care. Cart guy works in an airport. Cart guy has seen this. Cart guy sees this every day.
There is no one at the info desk. That there is no one at the info desk is epically disastrous. Whatever life skills she’s banked have been spent on this one travel day. She has been flying alone since she was nine years old and she is tired now. If she ever gets home, she will stay home, and never set foot in an airport again. Info desk guy comes. There are no more cots right now. Maybe later. It is already later. It cannot be later than it is. It is the latest it will ever be. The wife sees some red club chairs by a window. It should be noted that the Philadelphia airport, if you happen to have a layover during normal hours, when you are not slowly losing your shit, has many enjoyable places to sit, charge your phone, even download a book for free. The club chairs are the closest chairs and that is where she will sleep. That the club chairs are on something of a ramp, and therefore slanted, at this point, is irrelevant. She has no remaining energy to go in search of a level floor. She’ll put her head on the high end. She’ll put a coffee table between the two club chairs and stretch out and use her purse as a pillow. Info guy walks by her setup twenty minutes later to report that there are cots now over by the info desk. She cannot walk back there now. It is maybe twenty feet away. Info guy brings her a pillow and a blanket. There is also holiday Muzak. It’s two a.m. and her marriage is falling apart and she’s on a bed made of two club chairs and a coffee table slanting downhill at the Philadelphia airport. She phones a friend who communicates largely in metaphors. This is totally his fault, the wife says. Metaphor friend doesn’t ask how so, knows that her friend is in a bad place. I let myself believe he meant it when he said he’d never leave. Metaphor friend offers to stay on the phone until she falls asleep if she needs to. Metaphor friend tries out a few metaphors (slow kiddie trains at the mall, slow cookers, broken arms healing, anything that’s generally slow), somehow makes her laugh, talks to her until she’s calm enough to sleep for maybe an hour.
The wife plugs in her headphones, puts some TV show on her iPad to drown out her brain, and closes her eyes. But there will be no sleep, only a tornado of thoughts about the imminent and complete demise of her marriage.