By Alicia Wilkerson
My mother was angry at me and I didn’t know why. The airport was a long way from home, but I could still see the tiny purple snow-capped peaks where we lived. The open space around us only made my fears grow stronger. It raged through me as I clung to my mother’s legs. Burying my face in my mother’s jeans the only thing I could smell was the harsh scent of tobacco smoke and dirt. It had been hours since her last cigarette, and her mood only grew darker.
A woman called out again over the intercom system, “Last call for Flight 1105 to JFK – Last call.” My mother attempted to pry me from her legs. But I held on with one arm wrapped around her knee, and the other held on to my little, stuffed dragon. He came everywhere with me. “Let go Nox. We have to get on the plane.” Her voice was as harsh as her smell. It hadn’t always been like that. It had only recently filled with hatred and disdain. She used to love me but now she hated me. I cried even harder. What had I done to make my mother hate me?
The memory rushed into my mind. I could see the fire on the curtain. I had stared at it, but I wasn’t exactly sure how. It just happened. I saw things shift and take form. My mother yelled at me. “What the fuck!” Then she grabbed me by the shoulders and shook. “Did you do that?”
I shook my head. I didn’t know. I was quaking in fear, terrified of my mother, of the fire, and of what I had just done. I hadn’t meant to. My mother rushed into the kitchen and grabbed the fire extinguisher. The large red canister let out a fog of white and the flames went out. All I could do was cough as she threw the red tube past my head. I remembered the look on my mother’s face as she spat at me and yelled, “Go to your room.”
And now, the next morning, we were at the airport. My mother took my arm roughly and pulled me from her. I yelped at her grip on my arm. The pain added to my fear as she dragged me towards the plane. My sobs were still shaking my body. I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want a new home.
Inside the plane was full of people. The countless smells of the other passengers bombarded my senses. Everything was mixed and mingled together, I could smell wood and musk on top of sickly sweet perfume with hints of rose petals in it. But I couldn’t tell what smell went with what person. It made my skin crawl with so many different things happening at once. We sat down in empty seats in the front of the plane. My mother buckled me in, and I curled up in my seat. I cried to myself I didn’t want to leave.
A woman came on over the intercom as the plane jerked forward and my heart caught in my throat. I cried harder. The plane tilted and the world spun out of control. My body shook with silent sobs. My mother gave me a juice that tasted horrible. As my mind went fuzzy I heard her say, “Finally, peace and quiet,” as I drifted off into the bleakness of my own mind.
When the blurred world started to become focused again I was in the terminal, waiting alone. I start to panic as I look around. Relief settled my panic as I saw my mother was standing at the door talking with a man. She touched his arm with a soft laugh. I was still alone and I didn’t dare move because my mother was already angry with me.
The knuckles on my hand were white with the strain of clenching the arms of my chair. I was still feeling a little strange from the juice my mother had given me. I don’t know how long I sat there. I didn’t move. I waited and waited. It felt like forever.
I watched as people went by. I could hear my mother’s anger getting stronger, “Where the fuck is he? I have a plane to catch.” I could feel the tears welling up inside me. She was leaving me here, in this strange place, alone.
A man rushed past the terminal and then he doubled back. He looked at me with piercing blue eyes like he could see straight through me. He smiled at me, but I didn’t know him. I hugged Mushu to me for comfort even though Mushu was such a small dragon; he could not hurt a cricket. The man walked towards me. He looked at the black watch on his wrist and then back at me.
When he stood in front of me he asked, “Are you Nox?” I only nodded. I was afraid to speak.
He knelt down to my level, pulling the black dress pants up revealing black sock to go with his black shoes. He offered me a hand, “Hi, I’m Dorian. I’m here to pick you up and take you to your new home.”
My mother left the other man and rushed over. I felt her grab my shoulder and push me down into the chair. “You must be Dorian Vega? You’re late! I’ve been here an hour.” I was glad my mother wasn’t aiming her anger at me, but her fingers were digging into my shoulder and it hurt. I started to whimper.
The man stood up and looked down at me then back up to my mother. “You said 11 am, not 10.” He didn’t look happy. “You’re hurting the boy. I have it from here, Ms. Sétanta. You can return home. I’ll send you notice of Academy visitation days.”
My mother removed her hand and I was free of her grasp. I pulled away from her, but she was already walking away. She left without a good-bye – nothing. I didn’t know what I had done that was so bad and tears started streaming down my cheeks again.
I wanted my mother. I didn’t want a new home! I tried to slip further back into my chair, but I was already as far back as I could go. I pulled my legs up to my chest and wrapped my arms around them squishing Mushu. It was uncomfortable, but I didn’t care.
I felt a hand on my shoulder and I looked up. Mushu’s head popped up where my chin had been resting. “Who do you have there?” He asked and pointed at the stuffed dragon peeking over my knees.
“Mushu,” I whispered through my tears.
“Well. Mushu, can you and Nox come with me?” He held out his hand. I nodded and put my hand in his. He helped me get out of the chair, but I my body didn’t quite work and I stumbled into him. I felt his arms wrap around me; I could smell cinnamon and vanilla. Dorian whispered in my ear, “It’s going to be okay.” He smelled safe and comforting and I believed him.