I remember when they told us to get off the plane, though I have tried to forget it because you said it was not a story.
“Well, it’s not just my anecdote; there were three of us. That’s three anecdotes, isn’t it? Three people kicked off a plane for being Muslim. You can write about that, can’t you?”
“Hon, you didn’t make any decisions. It’s just something that happened to you once.”
I thought about standing in the aisle, with Abba and Chacha, as we were told to turn around, to get rebooked, that we were making everyone uncomfortable. I thought about how Abba and Chacha looked around the cabin, picked up our carry-ons, and turned around, walking us back to the gate, without ever once making a sound. I thought about sitting on top of my carry-on as Abba asked for seats on the next flight and handed over his card for the change fee and Chacha excused himself to go to the bathroom.
“Aren’t you wondering why I never told you this before?”
You looked at me briefly, surprised, before turning your eyes to the apron-tied back of our waiter at the next table. Your reaching, upraised fingers twitched.
“Not really,” you said. You sighed. The waiter had turned back to the kitchen without looking over. You lowered your arm, stretched it. “I also tend to assume every woman I meet has been assaulted. It’s what you do after something happens to you that makes a good story.”
The waiter reappeared, and you raised your arm again.
“I married you,” I said. “That’s what I did after.”
You finally got the waiter’s attention, motioned with the tips of your fingers, and turned back to me.
“If you think something’s there, you write it.”
I let out a long, low grunt. I watched you, waited for your response. You just kept looking at me, expectant, unhurried.
“Have you ever been assaulted?” I asked.
You reached across the table then and touched the tip of my nose, smiling, truly, with mocking pleasure.
“I don’t want to write it,” you said.
“No one does,” I said, on the last edge of a sigh.
After we left, after we drove home and you took off your makeup while I brushed my teeth, after you put on cold cream while I put in my mouth guard, after I stared awhile in the bedroom mirror at the long, dark lines etching themselves around your wide lips, as I finally unhooked my bra and lay it softly against the others in our drawer, as you were turning your back to me, pulling back the covers, about to get into bed, I said, “You’re unreachable.”
“I’m here,” you said. “Just here.”
You patted the bed, where your back would lie, still, unmoving, all night.
I’d toss and turn, I’d curl into a fetal position, I’d wake up several times with cramps in my shoulders and cricks in my neck, and you’d lie there, still, the sleep mask with embroidered glitter eyes staring at the invisible ceiling. You’d wake up the next morning and massage my shoulders, unwind the knots, pull the skin up from the base of my skull and release it. You’d ride the train with me in to work, kiss my cheek, and then leave me to your coffeehouses and your pens, and I’d stand under the fluorescent light of the single bathroom on the forty-seventh floor of the law office where I sued for other people’s rights and I’d remember the plane. I’d say to myself, stiffly, “You. You’re unreachable.”
I’d watch as my breath quickened, my shoulders domed, and my chest caved. I’d want to breathe deeply; I’d want to work to unclench my jaw. I’d want to—but I wouldn’t. From now on, I’d be a spring. Coiled.
And I’d walk out of the bathroom and never speak of the plane again.
Aasiya Mirza Glover is a mixed, Pakistani-American Muslim author originally from the now-defunct town of Brunswick, Tennessee. She has previously published stories in Damazine and Headland magazines. A lawyer in New York City, she lives in New Rochelle, New York, with her husband, two children, cat, and--like any good Southerner--family recipes.