By Claire Schultz -
She can’t remember when she started forgetting. Or maybe she’s forgotten when she stopped remembering. It’s the same, isn’t it? She can’t remember. Or she forgets.
She’s in an airport—that much she knows, she can hear the crying children, the boarding announcements, she sees a Hudson News and a Dunkin Donuts thronged by luggage-carrying tourists across from her gate.
She does not have any luggage of her own, but she does have an I Heart NY snow globe and what she assumes must be her boarding pass. She imagines herself picking the snow globe from the shelf, deciding that this is exactly what she needs to bring her husband back from her business trip. She cannot imagine her husband. She is sure that she has one. The base of her left ring finger is pale and worn, eroded from years beneath a wedding band. She does not know where it has gone now. She also does not know how she could have paid for the snow globe, because she’s pretty sure she doesn’t have a wallet.
She begins standing to walk back to the Hudson News. Maybe she left her purse there, or maybe she walked out without paying and they just haven’t noticed yet, and she’s been walking through the airport with a stolen souvenir.
The man seated beside her stops her with a gentle hand on her shoulder, and she flinches at the contact. He is young, freckled, his face unlined, his eyes red-rimmed and wide. She realizes she does not know how old she is. She remembers being many ages, but perhaps she has forgotten them all.
“Flight’s boarding soon,” says the man, and his voice is kind and sad enough to make her regret flinching. She wonders if he is returning home from a wonderful vacation; there is a Disney World sticker on his carry-on. She does not want to ask, though, she hates talking to strangers.
Instead, she says, “Are you from Chicago, too?” She is surprised by the certainty of this fact. She’s from Chicago. She knows that, and nothing more.
She realizes that she does not know where the flight is going, and she cannot decipher the airport codes on any of the signs, but she assumes it must be taking her home. She can’t think of it going anywhere else.
He nods. “Born and raised.”
“I hope it’s not going to be too cold there. I’ve had an awfully long trip and seem to have forgotten my jacket.”
She looks at her boarding pass, half-crumpled in her lap. It has her name, which she had not realized she was in the process of losing, and what must be the date, although it is later in the year than she had realized. Chicago shouldn’t be too cold after all. The string of letters under the word DESTINATION are still inscrutable, and she wonders why airports can’t just list their full city names.
The screen above her blinks green. NOW BOARDING. She stands; the man next to her does not. He says he’s in a later boarding group. By the doors, a small line is forming—maybe a few dozen people, many of them carrying souvenirs too, flowers and donuts and t-shirts. None of them have luggage, either.
As she joins the line, she decides this strange fit of amnesia must be jet lag, and that she’ll be fine once she’s on the plane. She’s always liked flying. She likes marathoning bad movies and tiny bags of popcorn and endless bottles of ginger ale and becoming a giant looming above a dollhouse world, watching matchbox cars drive along Lake Michigan, the people grown so tiny as to disappear completely. She remembers (she remembers!) that, once, she wanted to be a flight attendant, and that, after that dream failed, she chose her job explicitly so that she could fly as much as possible. As a child, she even liked airports. She is shocked that she has this sudden clarity, but she remembers loving the excitement, the strange, surreal world-within-a-world, a glass-enclosed city of people all waiting to be somewhere else, drawn together for a brief moment before spiraling off across the sky.
Yes, she thinks, and discovers that she is now boarding. She’ll be fine once she’s on the plane.
Claire Schultz holds a BA in English Literature & Creative Writing from the University of Chicago and is currently pursuing an MPhil Education (Critical Approaches to Children’s Literature) at the University of Cambridge. Her fiction has been featured in the UCL Publisher’s Prize Anthology and won the Hotel Commonwealth Emerging Writers Prize. She likes baking, fairy tales, and the kinds of ghost stories that keep you up at night. You can find her at clairerschultz.com, or making a fool of herself on Twitter @anotherclaire.