A Plane to Catch
He longed for someone to blame. Karen’s debilitating back pain. Their chromosomal incompatibility. The snarl of traffic. Fifteen minutes they had to get to the airport, to meet the daughter they’d never met. He imagined her walk, a waddle, arms straight out, a mummy, swaddled. Omah, she’d say, mother in Korean. And no answer. Failures, already, before they had a chance.
Now what’s happening, Karen asked from the back seat.
Same, he said. They hadn’t moved for forty-five minutes. A half mile, maybe less to the terminal. He should pull over, run, that run that ends movies, ends with her in his arms, spinning, endless spinning. But what of Karen? How could he leave her there, flat on her back, a victim in waiting.
Ahead, he could see the sirens on the shoulder of the road, blocking this escape.
The gods have spoken, Karen said. Her voice sounded as if it came from the radio speakers, crackly, distant. They don’t want us to be parents.
The rearview mirror, tilted, so he could see her. Her leg rose, kicked at the door. Pull over, Karen said. Now, goddamn it. Pull over.
Invisible, their pain. The nothingness that grew in her belly, the tests, impossible to conceive, such nothingness. She needs someone to see it, Dr. Stake said about Karen’s back. That it happened—or didn’t happen—inside her. That made it her pain, not his, Dr. Stake told him.
The car in front of him blocked him. It took three, four, forwards, reverses to make room, find the space.
Come on, Karen said. Come on.
He turned off the car, went around to the back door, opened it. He grasped her arm, pulled her into a sitting position. She swung her legs over to the open door, put all her weight on his arm, stood up. Let’s go, she said.
We won’t make it. Never. Maybe it’s better to wait, he told her.
No. No. She took a step, another one. Frankenstein steps. Another two, three, she lumbered, then timber!, fell sprawling onto the gravel.
Her face, tears, dirt, a tiny cut. She looked up at him. Go, she said. Please. Get her.
And he did. He ran, the winged run of gods, he ran, away, away, he ran, hearing a ticking only, maybe it was the gravel against his soles, his watch, his heart, a bomb hidden somewhere. She’d be waddling toward him, toward her he ran, away he ran, to this daughter he ran, to catch her.
When we went to catch my daughter’s plane from Korea, there was no chance wed be late. We arrived hours early. She was only six months old, swaddled, saying oh-mah,’ the Korean word for mother. Four years later, hiding under a table as a nurse tried to give her a flu shot, she stuck her head out and screamed, I should have never left Korea!’ Despite my daughter’s reservations, we feel—then, now, and forever—incredibly lucky and blessed that she made the trip.