Fiction Issue 2009: Cruising | Fiction | Chicago Reader

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Fiction Issue 2009: Cruising

"I used to be pregnant."

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"I used to be pregnant."

She was nervous about flying, so she talked and he listened in the hour it took to fly from Detroit to Chicago. She explained how she used to be pregnant, but he missed the explanation—the noise of the engine drowned out the details. But his understanding was less important than the explanation. Or just the act of explaining.

She was nervous. She wanted to take her mind off the fact that she was in an airplane that was in the sky that was being controlled by someone else.

He usually fell asleep in his seat before takeoff. Flying didn't worry him. But he didn't like people who talked during movies or talked on their cell phones wherever they went. He didn't like that he couldn't control people he didn't like.

People say things they normally wouldn't when they're nervous. They agree with opinions they don't share, they laugh at jokes they don't find funny. And some people just talk and talk and keep talking, even if no one's listening.

She had a nose ring and unwashed hair. There were several attractive women on the flight. He'd noticed them in the airport before everyone boarded. The blonde with the high forehead. The one with the dancer's body. But this girl wasn't one of them. He wished she was.

"I used to be pregnant."

Her eyes began to water.

Please don't cry, he thought. For God's sake, don't cry. It was enough that he was stuck listening to this story, especially since he couldn't hear most of what was being said in the first place.

Would he be able to hear her better if he wanted to sleep with her? Probably.

OK, yes. But he didn't.

Someone had wanted to sleep with her, though. That's how she ended up as someone who used to be pregnant. But whether or not that someone loved her was another story.

He had never gotten anyone pregnant. Or so he assumed. An ex once said to him, "If you had gotten a girl pregnant, and she decided not to keep it, do you think she'd tell you about it?"

The girl sitting next to him was nervous, but she also needed someone to listen. He couldn't hear her over the noise of the engine. So he stopped listening.

The plane landed safely, quietly. They watched as everyone around them stood up, waiting to exit.

Whenever a plane lands, and it finally reaches the terminal, that electronic bell lets passengers know they can take off their seatbelts. They won't be able to leave for a few more minutes, but as soon as they hear the bell, they stand up. Almost every single one of them.

They can't go anywhere. They know they're still not in control. But they stand up anyway.   

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