There are smudges all over my phone screen. I’ve been scrolling through our last conversation over and over again. We’ve been fighting, again. It seems like we’ve been doing that a lot lately. She hasn’t responded to my last message, and it’s driving me crazy. To make matters worse, I know she’s seen it, but that’s Alice for you. Fucking stubborn, she’ll respond when she wants or maybe she won’t. Even after all this time, she can be a mystery. I don’t want to think about this anymore. But my brain won’t let me forget as if this flight needed to feel longer. I need to find some kind of distraction. I could look out the window, but there’s nothing to see. The screen in front of me informs me that we’ve over the Adriatic. I’ve got another three and a half hours on this plane until we’re in Ireland, then another seven hours until I’m home. “Until I’m home.” I haven’t said those words in a long time. Eight months to be exact, I have been in Toronto in eight months. I missed our anniversary, and her birthday, I did send flowers, and I did video call her, but I know they’re not enough. I start to feel guilty, I can feel it in the pit of my stomach and in my throat. I want to take out my phone and just text her “I’m sorry.” I’ve been doing that a lot and I think I’ve run out of them. I think it’s the last thing she wants to hear. I don’t know what I’m going to say to her, so I just rest my head against the window and try to do something other than thinking about her.
“I don’t know. I honestly, babe, I just don’t know. Sometimes it can just be infuriating. I spoke to her and tried to get her to help because I’m swamped, and she just fucking sat there saying she was busy with something else. She was on Facebook laughing at cat videos.” When she gets mad, it is a little cute, so I can’t help but smile a little.
“Okay, have you spoken to Ian about this? Does he know that she’s been … this way?” I can see her pacing around in one of my old hoodies. I gave her that before I left, it’s nice to know she still wears it. “I have, but he says to just be patient” I roll my eyes. The person we’re discussing is one of Alice’s co-workers who was in a car accident a few months ago, nothing serious but has completely milked the situation. “Babe?” She’s sitting back down, “McMaster University” my hoodie, well her hoodie now. “Yeah, sweetheart?” I zoned out, I don’t like to see her upset and lately its been like this a lot especially when it comes to work. “I’m sorry I’m venting so much. How was your day?”
“Hey, that’s what I’m here for. And my day, it was fine. Students, papers, research, more students.” I give her a shrug and a smile.
“Okay. James? You don’t look happy, what’s wrong?” I don’t want her to worry. I know I can tell her anything in the world, but I don’t want to tell her that there’s something wrong. Over the last month and a half, I’ve had panic attacks. The last one was so severe that it caused a nosebleed. I give her all this advice about work when I should take my own advice and quit. I fucking hate being a research professor. I hate the students, I don’t love the subject anymore, I don’t care about uncovering the answers to mysteries, plain and simple I don’t care about this anymore, but I don’t know what else to do. “Nothing’s wrong Ally” I can feel it, we’re going to fight.
When I wake up, there is a cup of coffee in front of me and a cookie. The cookie isn’t one of those shitty airplane cookies, it looks homemade. The coffee is warm, so I drink it down in seconds, then I break the cookie in half. It’s definitely homemade, it’s soft and gooey just the way I like them. When I was writing my PhD my colleagues always referred to me as the cookie monster. I’d always have cookies in my desk, sugar helps me study, and it was an excellent way to shut undergrads up about their bullshit. The cookie is incredible, then it hits me, I just ate a mystery cookie. I didn’t buy it, it’s not an airline cookie, where the hell did it come from. Then my brain starts to panic, what if it was poison, “I’m going to die because I ate a cookie” I keep thinking. I suppose there are worse ways to go. The woman next to me shifts in her seat and reaches into her bag. I can see a ziplock bag full of cookies, she hands me another cookie “You looked stressed, I find that sugar always helps.” Would you look at that, I panicked for nothing. “Thank you”