Filling in the Sky

Ceasar hands his ticket and his passport to the girl behind the counter. She is writing and stamping and her eyes are glazed right over, her smile pasted on. She points him down the long hallway, off to another checkpoint to do it all over again. Airports.

The ceremony is starting. His aunt is going to be furious with him.

The tasselled cap and gown are still hanging on the door to his room. He supposes he ought to have brought the cap, his parents are sure to want to keep it, display it proudly on a shelf or in a curio cabinet along with the diploma tucked safely away in his carryon. Titus had given it to him the night before, had been very good about the whole thing. “I’m sorry you’ll miss the ceremony,” he’d said, and he meant it, Ceasar thought. “Don’t tell my aunt,” Ceasar had pleaded. She wouldn’t understand, or maybe she would, maybe that would be even worse.

He keeps glancing behind himself as he winds in circles around the airport. He doesn’t know what he is looking for. Someone running up to catch him, last minute, chick-flick cliché, “Don’t go,” he’d cry, “please don’t go.” But Ceasar never told him he was going. Right now he’d be standing in front of the crowded auditorium, his cap tilted rakishly to one side, he’d rehearsed it the night before, strutting naked around the dorm room, making Ceasar laugh, making them both laugh.

“We’ll figure it out,” Ice had told him as they lay pressed together in the dark. Ceasar had nodded, but there was nothing to figure out. One last night side-by-side on a narrow bed, fighting over the blankets, that was all there was.

Ceasar finally makes his way to the gate. His flight doesn’t leave for an hour. The ceremony would be ending now. Would they throw their tasselled caps into the air? Titus had told them not to, but Ceasar suspects they would anyway. He sits down in the corner of the waiting area, across from a woman and her daughter. The little girl is stretched out in the aisle, scribbling in a coloring book. She smiles up at Ceasar and offers him a blue crayon. He smiles back and shakes his head no.

Ceasar’s pocket shakes, startling him. His cell phone. He takes it out and looks at the display. His throat closes up at the sight of the familiar number. He lets it ring and ring and ring, and turns it off before the voicemail icon can start to blink at him. He stands up and walks to the bathroom, where he locks himself in a stall and cries quietly to himself for a while, maybe five minutes, maybe ten, maybe twenty. When he is finished he splashes cold water on his face and gasps.

The little girl is still coloring. Ceasar picks up the blue crayon and starts filling in the sky. She smiles at him and so does her mother. When they board, she tears the page out and gives it to him, and Ceasar smiles too.

When Ice runs dramatically into the airport twenty minutes too late, all chick-flick cliché, to hell with customs and security, all he finds is Ceasar’s cell phone and a blue crayon left on a seat at gate 12-G.

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