And that’s it. I've missed my flight. My stomach boils, an angry sea. My throat tightens and my eyes are hot. It all crashes back down on me at once, and I'm drowning. I can't breathe. My sensible, practical autopilot kicks in. Breathe in, two, three. Hold, two. Breathe out, two, three, four. Go to the desk and ask them to help you. I approach the friendliest looking customer service officer wearing the colourful uniform of my airline. My voice wobbles as I explain what’s happened, and by the end of the story I’m pleading. I’m probably the hundredth person who’s tried this today, but I'm telling the truth. There must be something in me that’s believable, because she makes a sudden decision; she hands me back my passport and tells me she can't promise anything, but she’ll try to help. I nod.
She’s back quickly and finally something goes right, in all the wrong. The airline has agreed to take me. She processes my bag with rapid-fire efficiency and hands me a boarding pass, before shepherding me on to customs and passport control. I get through without incident and head straight to the gate, where the purser is waiting for me.
He tells me it's my lucky day, that the captain on this flight never delays. I smile back at him, my relief waving above me like a carnival flag as we walk along the air bridge.
Settled into my seat, I fasten my seatbelt and stow my bag under the seat in front of me. My mind floods with nothing and my body sags like a half deflated balloon. I'm going home, where the mess that couldn't follow me when I ran still sits like spilled oil nobody bothered to clean up.
Amanda McLeod is a creative based in Canberra, Australia. Her debut flash fiction collection Animal Behaviour was released in 2020 by Chaffinch Press. Amanda is the Managing Editor at Animal Heart Press, where she finds great satisfaction in helping authors bring their books to life, and is also the Art Editor and designer of FERAL: A Journal of Poetry and Art. Twitter: @AmandaMWrites