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Airplane

Her husband is waiting for the turn signal to the highway on-ramp when Stacey first sees the plane. The minivan reverberates with the tinny clack-clack-clack of the signal, somehow audible even above the radio and the movie blaring in the backseat, the one with the snowman who sings about loving the summer.

And why not, Stacey thinks, as the cartoon’s voice rises in grating counterpoint to the clack-clack-clack signaling her husband’s intentions, and the half-heard reports of human suffering from the calm-voiced reporter on the radio.

Don’t we always love the things that will destroy us?

It’s cold, and the the January sky above the windshield shines a deep, bruised blue above the greasy smear of city lights. The little, silver airplane hangs in that dark gloaming, suspended like an angel, lights twinkling from its outstretched arms.

The kids would like to see that plane. Well, her boys would, at least. The baby may or may not be interested.

Hell, her husband would probably like to see the plane too. He’s one of those men who feels a sort of kinship for all types of machines, as if he can tell the difference between a Boeing 747 and an Airbus 320 thanks to a deep, instinctual affinity, the same unexamined, insistent urge that must have driven his prehistoric ancestors to the best fishing grounds or the sweetest berries.

Is the plane coming or going, Stacey wonders. She can’t tell. Perhaps it’s just hovering, trapped between places forever.

She pictures herself opening her mouth, calling attention to the flashing lights, the outstretched wings. Look, boys! An airplane!

The song from the backseat crescendos. Stacey’s lips refuse to open.

We don’t have to share everything, she thinks. Some things can belong only to me, like a smile passed between strangers, or a distant memory that makes only me smile.

Or just how often the bright smiling face and dancing hazel eyes of her first lover still fill Stacey’s dreams, his youthful body forever just on the cusp of twenty years old. Or was he only eighteen that night on the beach, with the fireworks and the stolen wine? The night their bodies came together, those fleeting, burning minutes that live forever in her dreams, even now, even with years and children and the wreckage of two broken hearts between them.

The things that will destroy us, Stacey thinks.

The plane sinks through the sky. The traffic light flicks from red to green. Their van rounds the corner, and the airplane disappears.

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