Transit lounge

A machine dispensed vacuum-packed sandwiches. Its back-lit sign showed a couple on a tropical beach. Always Tasty—Always Fresh. A speaker crackled. ‘Passengers for Flight 344, your plane has been delayed.’ I chose ham and lettuce on wholemeal.

The announcements continued through the afternoon. Other flights came and went. I had cheese and tomato for dinner. A woman in a business suit picked salad on rye. That’s the way it began for us.

Around ten the terminal lights dimmed. I counted twelve passengers stretched across seats. Business Suit tapped on a laptop, her face blue in the screen’s glow. I laid my coat across a bench and fell asleep.

Next morning I counted five. What had happened to the others no one knew. The sandwiches had been restocked. We talked about our lives, our families, our hopes. The loudspeaker welcomed us to the place we were trying to leave. Four of the five disappeared on visits to the restroom. Business Suit and I sat watching the sunset over the runway. Planes taxied out and took off, landed and taxied in. A cleaner moved through silently. Business Suit said, ‘We’re trapped here. You and I. My name’s Barbara.’

I said, ‘Hi Barbara. I s’pose it’s sandwiches for dinner then?’

‘Sure,’ she said. We walked arm-in-arm to the machine.


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