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She Knows

Abandonment in Vancouver

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Sometimes I feel bad about abandoning my sister at the Vancouver airport, but mostly I just think Vancouver is a hell of a great place to be abandoned in and she can damn well deal with it. I'd even warned her. "If there's a single seat on that plane home and it's a choice between you and me, I am grabbing it. I'll be waving to you from the window as we take off, I swear I will."

I didn't have time to dick around on the way home like I did on the way there, a journey that took us three days, two hotel rooms and a rental car. It was supposed to have been one simple five-hour flight, but we were flying standby on my friend's airline-employee buddy passes, which is a sure-fire way to fuck up your plans if you're fool enough to make any. If you've ever flown on a buddy pass, I don't have to tell you your best bet is to simply appear at the airport with a bull's-eye painted on the back of your pants and tell the ticket agent to direct you to the tarmac where, if you're extremely lucky, you might get a few planes to ass-ram you within a day's driving distance of your destination. I had warned my sister about this, too, but she was undeterred.

"I've got time," she said wistfully. She was always being wistful about things I felt were fairly serious, like how she'd up and moved to Central America one day years ago. But as long as she knew she could get stuck in any number of cities from here to the Pacific, I felt I'd done my job as the fun-sucking sister and we could commence our meandering adventure. No need to fret over Cheryl, I thought. She knows.

But when it came time to fly home I was under pressure to get back due to the fact that I am an actual mother and my sprogette was returning from vacation in New Jersey with her dad, who has a huge family up there. I sometimes feel self-conscious about that, considering how most of my own extended family is either dead or doesn't know I exist, which I guess is how my mother wanted it when she decided to cut off communication with them when I was little. Sometimes I wish I had uncles and stuff, but those moments are pretty fleeting and almost entirely isolated to when my daughter returns from vacation in New Jersey spouting stuff like, "My whole family is Italian!" I rarely have the heart to remind her that I am her mother, which makes me part of her family, and I am not Italian.

But admittedly, when you look at Mae -- with her caramel skin and hair and huge brown eyes -- you would never know her whole family is not Italian. In contrast, my own eyes are green and I've been saturating my hair with bleach since I was 19, when the blond I was born with began to darken. When Mae and I are together, no one ever remarks at our resemblance to each other. Even my sister Cheryl says Mae looks like her father spit her out of his own mouth rather than having been birthed from the loins of our like, which makes me worry sometimes that after these trips away I'll have to remind Mae I'm her mother when we're together again. That worry dissolves, though, the instant she runs into my arms. She knows.

Cheryl's own looks favor our father. She has his dimples and mischievous eyes, back before his become rheumy with booze and then dulled with heart disease. I patted her on the shoulder before abandoning her in Vancouver in order to get back to my girl. As I predicted, the plane had exactly one open seat on it and true to my word I grabbed it. It was the exact last seat in the cabin, which meant I'd have to spend the flight averting my gaze from all the eye-level crotches standing in line for the lavatory, but I was happy to be aboard.

Once I got situated I looked up to see that the gate agent had let my sister on board as well, and I got elated there for awhile, until I realized she'd talked them into doing a walk-through in case they'd overlooked an empty spot. When they realized they hadn't they turned her around and escorted her back off the plane. As I saw my sister go, in her stained raincoat and hapless rucksack, I suddenly got all overcome. Christ, am I crying? I thought. I can't believe this. Lord Jesus God, I realized, I damn-ass better see Cheryl again, because if the last sight I ever have of my sister is of her being left behind I seriously don't think I could bear it.

After the plane took off, the flight attendant came back to laugh at my sister's antics, which didn't surprise me. Cheryl is one of those super maniacally contagiously smiley kinda people, and there were probably a hundred passengers on that plane at that moment that this flight attendant would have happily left on the jetway instead. She recounted how she extended her sincere regrets to my sister as we were leaving, and offered to deliver me a message if she wanted. At that Cheryl just grinned as the door was closing and said, "She knows."

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