I stretched my legs. I moved my arms.
I tapped my tapered fingers against my thigh.
And we waited.
"Nobody move please, we are going back to the airport, don't try to make any stupid moves," comes an exasperated voice from above. It isn’t God, but it might as well be.
Everyone knows this is a lie. Everyone accepts their fate. Everyone begins to pull out their cell phones. Everyone wants to say goodbye.
Alice’s mother dials a number with heavy fingers. She has to push the buttons twice to get the number right.
Alice can hear the crackling ring. And it rings. And it rings.
“Hey, this is Paul Bennet. I’m not here right now, but if you leave a message, I’ll get back to you a-sap.” Beep.
Alice’s mother catches her breath for a moment. She wants to save it for the right words. The last words.
“Paul. It’s-It’s Diane,” her voice is hoarse. “I’m sorry for ever leaving you; if I could take all of it back, I would. I never meant to hurt you, I swear. I-we don’t have a lot of time, but I just need, want, to say I love you.”
She drags the phone away from her ear. “Alice, honey,” she says, her brown eyes shining, “talk to Daddy; it’s time to say goodbye.”
I peered at the pages of my sister’s book over her shoulder.
I eavesdropped on my parents’ conversation of where they wanted to eat when I was being cut apart.
And we waited.
The plane rocks back and forth, side to side, like an out of control rollercoaster. The abandoned cart crashes into the wall, its contents spilling all over. People scramble for their masks that dangle in front of them. People hug each other, squeeze hands. They know the end comes upon them.
The plane dives down into the heart of New York, quick as a bullet. Alice feels her stomach and her heart rise into her throat. She clasps her mother’s hand and strangles Patches with her other.
A large tower rises to meet the plane, growing bigger and bigger. The shadow of the plane soon devours the building in its ravenous darkness.
A hot, garish, orange light consumes and blinds Alice. And Alice touches the face of God.
We waited and then somebody came. It was a nurse; her head was shaved and she wore the same taffy scrubs. The nurse’s face was slack, as if shock itself had slapped her. She walked softly, like in a daydream, and leaned over the nurse’s counter.
Whispers were exchanged. The Asian lady with the plump features raised a horrified hand to her lips. It couldn’t be true!
She stood on tiptoe as she stabbed each television on to CNN. A chain of ruffled black smoke rose from the grey building. They were calling it a tragic flight accident. I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t care. I thought the kind nurse had rushed to put on the latest Bruce Willis movie.
It wasn’t until later did I realize what I was seeing with my own eyes. It wasn’t until later did I register the frightening silence, the fake smiles for children who wanted to play with toys in the waiting room but couldn’t because of history unfolding. In a room across the hall, I could hear the jolly tones of Elmo and Big Bird.
The sterile stench of Hospital assaulted my nostrils.
I was dressed in the sickly white dotted patient robe, a tag branding my wrist, when the anesthesiologist, a man with glasses whose face was concealed by a bright blue dentist mask, asked me what flavor of anesthesia I wanted.
I couldn’t decide. Regular or strawberry? Strawberry or regular?
That’s when Dr. Armstrong walked up to us. He was a tall, lanky man with a full beard, and hair peppered with white.
“Mr. and Mrs. Schmid, I’m afraid we’re gonna have to postpone Kristen’s surgery. We’re very sorry for keeping you waiting, but we have to send blood down to New York.”
We left the hospital at 9:40, not knowing how much our lives would change.