I pulled the phone out of my jeans pocket and looked at the message.
“Safe travels, Joaquin,” it read. It was Lillian. “I’m proud of you.”
I stared at the screen for a while. Daring, I repeated myself. Brave. Nobody at the magazine wished me luck. My family didn’t wish me luck. The few friends I had left didn’t wish me luck. They thought I was stupid. Only Lillian disagreed with them. When did she become the best thing I had?
Not anymore, I guess.
The flight attendant instructed us to fasten our seat belts. My heart is breaking as I break yours. It was the only reply I could think of. But I didn’t text that back. The lights went out.
What am I doing? What the hell am I doing?
I had packed for a long journey. Bravery meant to face what we fear the most. But it also meant to have a compelling reason to do so; otherwise, you are just a fool. Was I a fool? The passion I felt for Oxana was slipping through the cracks of Lillian’s understanding, which only now I began to see. That side of her. Even at the last minute, she reminded me yet again what we had truly meant. The night before, I drove to her place to say goodbye in person. I owed her that much. Instead, she held me as I wept. How could I ignore that? But now, it’s too late.
Lillian’s compassion had shaken me to my core with the same delayed reaction of idiots who, like my editor, ignored the slow-brewing war that was coming. Lillian had been there for me all along. I sank into my seat.
I could still get out of the plane. I could still get out! Sitting on my aisle seat with Lillian’s words slipping off my hands, I could still get up and walk away. I would exit the plane, exit the terminal, leave the airport and forget all about this trip, Oxana Kolluchy, and the impossible adventure I thought I deserved. I could allow myself to fall in love again with the woman whose hand I held since college, the one who had endured so much for me and who had loved me for who I was and, more importantly, in spite of it. My college sweetheart was my forever. I needed to get out of the damn plane.