For over an hour she’d been thinking about killing the baby. Was it a baby? A toddler? He sprawled between two exhausted, resigned parents four rows behind her. They had been in the air for six hours, somewhere over the Pacific, and she’d just had it already with the carts of stale food, the fake smiles, the snoring old men, and now, now more than anything, the crying of the kid, especially after having had the worst sex of her life that morning. It went on and on and on. She tried to plug her ears with her fingers, some meditation, headphones—nothing cancelled the sound. She could hear the blood in her head. Then the movement of her thoughts, the stars becoming nothing, dying—she could hear it all. Suddenly broken, she jolted up from her seat, and started over the man next to her. No doubt she was going to shut that stupid loud-mouthed lump of flesh up—break its neck, smother it with a pillow, maybe even flush it down the fucking toilet—glug glug glug. But then something happened. The last passengers, the inconsiderate few who still had their lamps on, cut the lights off almost simultaneously. It was kind of like a magic act. Maybe it was magic, period. And just like that, as the darkness moved in and consumed them, the kid finally shut up, didn’t peep even a wheeze of air, as though the sound of his tears had been vacuumed clean out of him.
She sat back in the seat, slunk down, closed her eyes, and began thinking about how horrible she had been—thinking such thoughts. Then her brain started in on another thing she didn’t want to think about. The lazy, half-assed, unprotected sex she’d had that morning in her hotel room in Mumbai. He was a sexy Welsh man, fifteen years her junior, named Albert. She’d been excited, after meeting him at a bar near her hotel. She was immediately charmed by him—his wit, his accent, his seeming decency. They’d spent the night together, had some fun, but he didn’t know the first thing about pleasing a woman, clearly, could hardly even locate the clitoris, his tongue making motions in all the wrong directions. Something she just choked up to inexperience.
When she finally started to doze the man sitting next to her woke up and decided he wanted to chat. Talked on and on and on about his business opportunities in China, Tech this and that, blah blah blah, on and on about how cool and young and rich he was—a monologue for the ages.
Finally, he said, The name’s Jeff.
She shook his hand, didn’t say anything.
Well, he said. What should I call you?
Jill, she said, unsmiling.
Jill, he said. What a pleasure. You get those eyes from Zales, because they sparkle like diamonds.
She laughed, rolled her eyes. Sure, she said. Something like that. Actually, I think it was Helzberg.
After a few seconds of awkwardness from Jeff, she said, Listen, man. That fucking baby’s done crying and we have four hours left on this flight. I’d like to be asleep for all of them. Sorry. Nice to talk to you and all, but I’m going to sleep, if I can.
Jeff nodded, said, Understood. Get some rest.
She woke up upon landing at LAX. She ignored Jeff’s small talk. When they got off the plane, he followed her—first to baggage claim, then to a vending machine. She hardly noticed him at first, yet there he was, tapping his foot, all smiles and waves outside the bathroom when she emerged, air-drying her hands, flapping them like weird wings.
Hey you, he said. I’ve been thinking. You like cats? I’ve got two at home. I’d love to take you out for a drink and show you my cats.
Ted, she said. I mean Ned. I mean Cody…
It’s Jeff, he said.
Well, Jeff, you see…the thing is…
Come on, he said. One cat, couple drinks…
You’re nice and all, she said. Thing is I’m a dog person. I wouldn’t save a cat to save your life. Sorry bub, just not interested.
But, he said. But he didn’t finish. She’d already turned away, had gained a few yards between them.
He watched as she faded into the crowd, her name in his head like an echo increasing in volume. By the time she hailed a cab, she couldn’t recall his face—and she didn’t like dogs, either. Her name wasn’t even Jill. It was Amy.
The cab driver played reggae the whole ride home. It was the same and yet totally different from New York—more of a sprawl, a different smell. She’d only been in LA for six months, working as a showrunner for a popular Netflix series. She was a natural born writer, her stories occasionally appearing in the esteemed New Yorker. She told the cab driver her real name. He told her his. His name was Raheem. They small-talked over Bob Marley and the Wailers. She was truthful, except for her job. She said she was a veterinarian who specializes in cats.
I hate cats, he said.
She didn’t say anything, just smiled big and wide, nodding.
How do you feel about screaming children on airplanes? she asked.
Can’t stand them, he said. I’d do anything to shut the little shits up.
I wanted to murder the kid on my flight.
Maybe you should have, he said.
When he dropped her off, she threw her bags in the entryway of her apartment, kicked off her shoes and went into the kitchen. Fridge flung open, she chugged down half a Bud Light and let out a burp. She felt a little grimy so decided to shower. As the hot water fell over her body, she recalled the screams of the child on the plane. She slid her fingers up and down, up, down, all over her body, lathering.
When she got out, she saw she had a text from her girlfriend, Myra. It was a meme of the president saying something asinine, sporting an I-think-I-just-shit-my-pants face.
She texted Myra back: One day we’ll drink from his fucking skull.
She entertained the idea of telling Myra about her trip, didn’t feel the energy.
In her robe, she peeped through the blinds out into the courtyard and saw a young couple smoking cigarettes on a bench.
She remembered his name. His name was Raheem. He was the nice one. The screaming child in her head stopped screaming. It had nothing to do with him, though, nothing whatsoever. It was just a memory, a thought. But maybe it was something he said. She wasn’t sure. Probably not. It was a little over the-morning-after, but she knew she’d be going to see her doctor soon. She didn’t want anybody following her.