AAAIM > Artists > Writers > Departure

Departure

By Mark Mendes


"Wait for me, I’ll be right back," Rich said as he left Jill with the flight-bags. He walked away, quickening his pace towards the ticket counter. His short hair looked too neat as he talked with the rounded clerk at the window. Jill could see them trying to communicate with each other. She smirked in dismay and started to brush her hair. Rich pulled out his dictionary and pointed to some words. The little man’s face lit up and he produced two tickets. Relieved, he said good-bye. The clerk nodded and spoke to a co-worker about the rudeness of Americans.

"What’s next?" asked Jill. Her long brown hair shimmered in the dull station.

"Home," Rich answered. His voice was tired and worn, matching the expression in his eyes. "We have three hours to wait. You don’t mind, do you?"

"No," she said blankly. "Not at all. I have to make a call, okay?"

"Sure."

Rich watched her move to the telephone booth. She walked tall and proud, showing off her charm school stature. Rich thought about here complete sense of belonging in this foreign place. When they arrived two months before, Jill sauntered off the plane like a queen returning to her homeland. He saw that pride as she spoke on the phone. He caught her eyes and she suddenly looked away in shame. Rich chuckled as her confidence was broken.

Looking around, he could tell a plane was departing. Masses of people glided back and forth in precision. They were loaded down and burdened with belongings. Children ran to keep up with parent. Suitcases were carried, rolled and dragged. Jill emerged through the general hustle.

"I called the hotel and cancelled our reservations for the rest of the month," she said.

"Oh?"

A bulging woman walked past. She was eating a sweet roll as a troop of children followed. They all held a bag in one hand and the belt-loop of a brother or sister in the other.

"Will they send our stuff?" asked Rick, looking intently at Jill’s crystal-gray eyes.

"Yes," she said. Her eyes revealed nothing. "They’ll be on our plane."

She reached in her bag and pulled out a magazine. Rich couldn’t understand the title. He watched her turn page after page. She stopped at an article and began to read. Her eyes fluttered across the lines.

"Do you want to stay?" Rich asked.

"Don’t be silly. I’ll go back with you." She continued reading.

"Are you sure?"

"Yes." Her eyes didn’t leave the page. "Of course, if you want to stay, I’ll stay." She flipped a page. "I’m with you."

"Right."

Rich saw an old man, weathered from the sun, standing in a corner. He was talking to a young girl. She wore a velvet dress and had ribbons in her hair. The old man slowly bent over, carefully sitting in the corner. He reached to grab a suitcase and slip it near his knee. He motioned for the girl to sit on it. His aged hand reached out to touch her. She put her pink fingers on his palm and smiled. The old man’s eyes sparkled as they were moistened with tears. Rich watched the girl wipe them away with a laugh.

"Jill," he said.

"Yes."

"What are you going to do when we get back?"

"Haven’t thought about it. I didn’t think we were going back."

"Why?"

"I thought you liked it here. Just like me."

She flipped through more pages of her magazine. She stopped to look at a fashion section.

"Do you like this?" she asked Rich, pointing to a black dress. It cascaded from the shoulders in levels of ruffles. Near the ankles, it gathered, encasing the model’s legs. The model was Eurasian, wearing a peacock feather in her hair and electric blue make-up under her chin, trailing into her cleavage.

"No," Rich said, hardly pondering the exam.

"I didn’t think you would." Jill turned through more pages. She stopped to read another article.

Rich looked to the corner and saw the little girl and the old man. A woman was standing near them, throwing remarks every now and then. The old man made faces at the woman and the girl laughed. The girl took one of the ribbons out of her hair and tied it around the man’s wrist. He jerkily moved the hand to his cheek, rubbing the velvet across his face. He closed his eyes and the girl watched him intently.

"What are you looking at?" Jill asked.

"Nothing."

"Oh."

"What’s happening to us?" Rich asked cautiously.

"We’re getting on a plane and going back to the states. You bought the tickets." Jill put her magazine in her bag. "Do you want to read something?"

"You have anything in English?"

"No."

"Jill…"

"What?" She turned to face him, piercing him with her stare.

"Why are we leaving?"

"Don’t ask me. You’re the one who dragged me to the airport."

"Don’t you want to go home?"

"No. I don’t want to go back. I want to get my hair cut."

"You can do that later."

"I want to get it cut here. Everything in America is just an imitation. I want the real thing."

"I don’t understand."

"I know."

Rich pleaded with her to explain. She wouldn’t. All she said was that she was his and would go back with him.

"Will you be happy?" he finally asked her. She stared into the distance and took a second too long to answer.

"I’ll be content."

It was over between the girl and the man. Rich saw them hug. The woman kissed the old man on both cheeks and took the suitcase and the girl. The man stared at the little girl who smiled and laughed. When she disappeared down the corridor, he gazed at the blue ribbon. He kissed it and gently folded it up and put it in his breast pocket. Slowly, he shuffled out of the confusion and into the daylight.

"Who did you call?"

"I told you, the hotel. The manager said to tell you goodbye."

"What about our payment?" Rich asked.

"What?" Jill answered with a start.

"Does he want the rest of the money we owe him?"

"Oh. Yes. I told him we would send it with interest."

They both sat, contemplating each other. Rich whistled a nervous ballad as Jill took her brush and started stroking her hair.

"Jill. Last night I told the manager we were leaving. I also paid him."

"You did?"

"Yes."

She continued brushing at a quicker pace.

"You know," she said. "I think I’ll go and put my hair up. It won’t take a minute." She put the brush back in her bag and got up.

"Wait a minute," Rich said. "Can I have one of those magazine?"

"You can’t understand them."

"I know. I’ll look at the pictures."

"Oh." She reached in and took out a magazine. It was big and bulky, stuffed with fashion. As she handed it to Rich, he took her hand and kissed it. She peered at him, trying to guess his thought. He grabbed the magazine and smiled.

"I may learn this stuff some day."

"I doubt it," she said. "I won’t be long. Wait for me." She turned and started to walk to the restrooms. Rich saw her pass a distinguished gentleman kissing a blonde in a corner. Shadows made them look like ancient ghosts.

While Rich was flipping through the magazine, the short clerk waved at him and pointed to a gate. Rich thanked him and walked out of the lobby. He rummaged through his bag and found an envelope. He put Jill’s ticket in it and carefully licked the flap. He addressed it to the hotel and put some stamps on it that he was saving for his nephew. He then dropped it in the post box. As he was walking to the plane, he pretended not to see Jill hiding in the shadows. She turned with indifference as he began to climb the stairs. Her hair was braided, ready to be cut.


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Last modified: January 31, 2008