Meanwhile, Caroline and Clare met at the airport after a tumultuous start to the trip. Clare assiduously packed her luggage the day before – not the night before, the entire day before. She started in the morning and did her initial pack, everything she could think of that moment. Then, as the day went on she would add more and more as her brain chugged to life.
Clare’s husband, Nate, went over the checklist with her.
“Do you have lots of undies? That’s the most important thing, ” he said with utter seriousness. “You can re-wear jeans a million times but running out of undies? The worst, Clare”.
God, his earnestness made Clare’s heart swell. He truly wanted her to have fun. To find herself. Nobody had a better husband.
He was patient, smart, hilarious, handsome and crazy about Clare. And Clare was no easy customer.
A few weeks ago, Nate had gotten a cold (which he deemed pneumonia) and had been moping around their two bedroom rental for two weeks straight. Clare couldn’t understand why he didn’t just go and get the drugs to make it all stop.
One night, they were watching her favorite show, Spiral, when Nate sniffed for the 119th time and followed it up by using the back of his thumb to rub away any residual snot.
Clare finally unleashed, “Can you please stop sniffing?”
Nate looked up, head tilted, eyes wide. “What do you mean?”
“Either blow your nose or just stop sniffing.”
“I’m sorry, if I blew my nose every time I needed to sniff, I’d never sit down.”
“Listen, Nate, ” Clare heard herself gearing up for a Tornado of Shit Blowing, “I can hear that your sniffs are empty, you are not even sniffing any snot back into your head, you have just been sniffing so much that you’ve made it a habit.”
“That’s not true, I’m sniffing actual snot,” Nate air-sniffed.
“Look, I read about it on Web MD, I just want you to see that it’s a real condition and if you’re not careful, you’ll just never stop sniffing.” Clare got up to show him the article on her laptop but Nate waved her away.
“Okay, okay, Jesus Christ.”
But it was too late, Clare was revved up and she needed to finish the lesson.
“Listen Nate, growing up in my family you couldn’t just get away with being annoying as shit. When I was eight years old, I got bronchitis and had to go on a very long family car trip and before I could even start coughing my mom handed me 5 Halls Extra Strength which said directly on the package ‘NOT FOR CHILDREN’. I remember looking pleadingly at Good Ole Dad but he just casually mentioned that ‘Coughing is a choice, you can simply choose not to do it’. So I learned not to cough. I honestly don’t know what on earth kind of family would just let someone be as annoying as humanly possible and just sniff and cough to their heart’s content.”
“You mean, a family of doctors?”
His dad was a world famous heart surgeon and his mother was a highly-regarded nurse practitioner. He had her there. He came from a normal, nice family that understood that children with bronchitis can’t control their coughing. They fell apart laughing and she didn’t even mind when he gave a ginormous sniff (mostly because there was actual snot in it).
And so Clare finished packing, proudly surveying how little she had packed. She had smooshed everything down as much as possible with these new compression straps she’d never found on this particular suitcase before. Everything was coming up peachy. She zipped up the bag with glee – how easily the zippers moved into position! They couldn’t wait to be nuzzled into their carport zipper hood!
She nearly tossed the bag into the upright position, gosh it was so light, when she saw it. The god. damned. bag. was. broken. She had completely forgotten that she had broken the handles on her last trip. There was no handle anymore…just a solitary pole to sort of drag the bag. Well, fuck. She’d worry about it later – this one-armed soldier would have to do for now. Caroline was waiting in the lobby.