They day after the breakup, you go to San Francisco to see your sister. You fly often, too familiar with the drone of checking in, surrendering control at security, waiting for the second Starbucks, sitting at the gate for an hour before boarding. You usually fall asleep before the plane takes off, because what else is there to do?
This time is different. This time, you fumble with your laptop at the TSA screening. You forget about the brass button on your jeans until it sets off the metal detector. They send you to the body scanner, and as you spread your legs and raise your arms, you feel that hole in your stomach widen, your throat closing. Not now. You blink and chew the insides of your cheeks. Stare at the closet-sized box while the agent’s gut bulges out either side of his belt in your periphery. Your eyes begin to burn. Not here. The machine’s muted thrum passes through you, and you feel as if the agent can see everything you’re holding back. It isn’t fair.
The male agent clears you from the scanner but directs you away from the crowd. Something about your carry-on. Another agent unpacks your bag, wiping the inside with a cotton pad she’ll test for gun powder residue. You want to tell her that’s not where the explosion happened, that if she lifted her dulled amber eyes and looked at yours, she’d be staring right at the wreckage. She opens one of the pockets and finds your keychain with the tiny Swiss army knife still attached. She says you can keep the knife if you check the bag. You tell her no, just toss it. She asks if you’re sure, you’ll never be able to reclaim it, and you want to scream, Don’t you understand, he gave it to me! Just throw it away. Please. Just throw it away.
You politely decline and proceed to the gate with your non-lethal baggage, eager to board the plane so you can fall asleep on the runway.