The man’s eyes were bloodshoot and wild, like he was looking past everything his drivers could see and through a window that wasn’t there. When he spoke, the words came out of his mouth, but it was clear he wasn’t the one doing the talking. He guided the Hispanic man through the downtown–turn left here, now a left again, just stop here and let us out. He called for another car and said he’d be back in 15 minutes. He rode up an old elevator that looked like a place an gangster might have been killed or a 1950s starlet felt up by a guy in a black suit. He grabbed a giant bag–47 pounds and not an ounce more–and hurried out of the old hotel. The olive-skinned man behind the heavy door said, “I called you a town car. Same price.”
And then the man was in the back of the black car, squinting through the darkness at 5am, sprung on an all-nighter, snapped by the prospect that his entire plan was coming together. The freeway was empty and a smudge of light at 77 miles per hour. The town car driver double parked and got the bag out of the trunk. The tired man didn’t stop moving. Even when he was standing still, he was running and so far ahead of himself that he couldn’t keep up.
At the ticket counter, he smiled widely, so much that the woman behind the desk couldn’t help but act in kind. When the gate agent said she only had a center seat in coach, that first class was sold out, that the plane was completely full other than his spot in 12D, the man almost laughed like it was welcome news. He didn’t whine. He didn’t beg. He thanked the woman for her efforts and let her take his heavy bag. The man was so happy, such a running smile, such a piece of fiction, if his plane went down, the gate agent would remember everything the running man had told her in that five minutes at the desk.
And then the man was running again, but not because he was late. Even if he ambled along with the crowd, he was running, sprinting breathless with the wind. The next person who stood in the man’s way had a badge. He took the man’s ticket and said, “You’re early.”
It seemed those words were all the running man needed to hear. He’d felt for the past 24 hours that a man not hurrying was a man not trying, was a man who was going to miss his train, his chance, his last sunset. At every turn, he ran faster, sure he was never going to make it.
“You’re early,” said the Asian man with the badge.
The running man stopped and breathed for a second, trying to find an easy way to explain himself. He settled on the only thing he knew to be true.
“I’m eager to see my family,” he said.
The Asian man smiled softly, said, “That’s good. Have a safe trip,” and watched the running man walk toward his gate.