“Do you want a Xanax?”
“Are you going to have a drink?” I asked, as I crammed the stack of gossip magazines I’d bought for the flight in the seat pocket in front of me.
“I don’t think so.”
“I don’t know,” he said and shrugged. And then he leaned down to The Cat’s carrier at his feet and unzipped the secret opening where he could pet her undetected.
“Oh my god,” I said. “You don’t want to be out of it in case she freaks out!”
He smiled. “I just want to be prepared. For anything.”
And I knew in that moment that he meant not only The Cat, but me, and my reaction to this trip.
“You are the best man,” I said.
In the days since My Boyfriend had arrived to help me with my move, we’d been incredibly busy – packing my things, organizing the movers, cleaning my apartment, attending my Second & Final Going Away Party, donating my extra bedding and towels to the Humane Society of New York.
And now, finally, we were done. Done and ready to take off for our new life together.
I leaned back in my seat, squeezing my eyes shut, as I felt the plane taxi to the runway.
My own Xanax hadn’t done much to waylay my anxiety. After all, I was leaving New York, a place I loved, going to my hometown – a place now, since the loss of my Mother, I was ambivalent about. I was unemployed, no health insurance, no direction, no idea what I would do next. And on top of all that, I had to fly.
With The Cat.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that having to fly with The Cat was one of the most stressful aspects of the move for me.
I’d learned that a requirement of the airline was that we had to take her out of her carrier and actually carry her through the security screening. This thought sent sears of panic through my chest. What if she got loose and ran away? What if she holed up in a Dunkin’ Donuts and we never found her? What if someone else found her and abducted her?
She is terribly cute so that last one was a pretty likely scenario.
On My dad’s suggestion, we had bought her a very fetching pink harness and leash set (his suggestion was the set – not the fetching color) that matched her fancy new pink and black mesh carrier, purchased especially for the trip. With this, we reasoned, when we removed her from the carrier My Boyfriend could tether her to his wrist so even if she broke away, she wouldn’t get very far. We’d carefully assembled it that morning but when the moment came to put this plan into action, the harness completely disintegrated, leaving her free of any restraint. I froze, paralyzed with the realization that my worst nightmare had come true. “We just have to go, Tracey!” My Boyfriend commanded and yanked The Cat out of the carrier, much to the amusement of the other passengers in the security line. He pulled her her tightly to his chest. “We just have to go!”
I watched, wringing my hands, as the two of them stepped into the x-ray chamber. The Cat did not run. Instead, she dug her claws deep into his shoulder and looked around the terminal with wild eyes. Soon, they were both safely on the other side and I almost wept with relief.
I had thought the moment we lifted off from New York would be an definitive moment in my life. I thought I would feel something grand shift inside of me. But I didn’t. I did not feel the excitement, joy, or anticipation I’d expected. Nor did I feel the sadness, longing or regret I’d expected. I felt nothing. Nothing but exhaustion.
Maybe it was the Xanax.
As we rose higher, the two of us zeroed in on The Cat, waiting for her to howl or hyperventilate, or throw up or worse, causing the other passengers to hurl their peanut-free snacks and water bottles at us in disgust and anger. But she was supremely calm, almost Zen-like, like she knew this was a very important next step in all of our lives. She looked around here and there, and then up at us, as if everything was normal, like, “What’s a Cat got to do to get some chicken down here?” So after a while when the seat-belt sign went off, I looked at My Boyfriend. “What do we do now?”
“Now? ” he said and put his arm around me. “Now, we rest.”
“Oh. Okay,” I said.
“We’re going to have a great life, Tracey,” he whispered, kissing me on the top of my head.
I leaned into his embrace and felt his strength around me.
And within minutes, as New York fell further and further behind us, the three of us fell asleep.