This is the day of Gus' return. There isn't really room in it for anything else. I only really pretend to work. I plan to leave for the airport at 1:30 to be sure to be there on time for his 3:12 arrival. Then about 1:15 Will calls from the airport to say the plane's only just taken off and they miss him already and to check arrival times because they left pretty late. So I call American Airlines flight information which says the plane's not due to arrive till 4. So I make myself wait. I kill time. At 2:15 I gather Jake and Tucker and head out. Traffic is horrendous. Still we get to the airport (parked and into the terminal) by 3:30. Gus's flight does not even show on the boards. There are terrible long lines at all AA desks. I hurry Jake and Tucker down the concourse to the gate mentioned on the AA's flight information tape. At K11 we find a plane bound for some irrelevant destination, preparing to board. I skip the line, go up to a man in uniform and ask him about the flight from Albuquerque. I'm in a full body sweat and close to tears. "My little boy was on that flight." I repeat, too loudly. "The phone service told me it was coming in an hour late. That it was coming in here. But now I can't find it." I am obviously a woman on the verge of panic. "It's alright," the man in the uniform says, "He's here somewhere." Such a comfort.
A woman approaches me, a non-uniformed person. "Are you looking for the flight from Albuquerque?," she asks softly. "I was on that flight. We arrived on time."
I whirl on the uniform, "Where's my boy?"
"They'll have taken him to the office to wait. They do that when a parent's late for picking up an unaccompanied child. It wouldn't be right just to let him sit out here."
"I'm not late. The phone service told me the plane wasn't coming in till 4." I have grown rigid with fury and the sense that, in spite of all, it is in fact all my fault. A parent should not leave her child stranded and alone. "Where is this office?"
"Across from gate K6."
I call Jake and Tucker to me. They want to know where Gus is. I tell them we're going to find him. In the wall across from gate K6 in amongst the billboard ads for sexier laptops and rental cars, there are several unmarked metal doors. I have to ask direction from another uniform behind the desk at K6. He points me to the proper door. We go in. It's like a doctor's waiting room, a receptionist's desk and banks of chairs full of people. But only one I see. Gus is turned away from the door, looking out the window at the planes on the runway. We rush to him and the three of us sort of collapse around his seat. It isn't the greeting I had imagined. Gus turns his head. "Hey." he says, casual. "Where were you?" In his mind, we had grown bored with waiting and gone off to find some more interesting way to kill time.
Once out of the secret waiting room, Gus talks non-stop, telling tales of football camp. At one point we have to stop while he gets down on the floor in the middle of the crowded concourse to demonstrate the leg-lifts Coach Paine made them do. Jake and Tucker and I watch and laugh and listen. We are all so glad.
Gus keeps on without pause all the way home, his stories interspersed with: "So, what have you guys been doing?" for which we have no real answers. He forges on, "Did you get me my flippers for the play?"
"So we'll have to get them tomorrow. Or maybe tonight."
"Why, Gus? What's the rush."
"Because the play's tomorrow."
"We can't do the play tomorrow."
"We're not ready. You've been gone for ten days. We haven't done any work on it."
"You didn't work on it while I was gone?" He can't believe it.
I can only laugh. My engine's back. I'm so glad.