I was just exiting the airport restroom an hour later when Michael tore around the corner and all but screamed, “We’re leaving!”
Not the most brilliant timing in history, I mused, but good news all the same, particularly since we’d been loitering in the airport all afternoon waiting for one of the most bone-rattling thunderstorms we’d ever experienced to subside.
When I rushed out into the waiting room (checking absent-mindedly to make sure I’d zipped my shorts), Michael and a red-faced airline employee were waiting for me by the door leading to the tarmac. Both appeared to be on the brink of hyperventilating.
“So we waited four hours and now it’s a national emergency?” I couldn’t help muttering.
Michael took my arm and steered me outside. “Let’s just get on the plane,” he said. “They say there’s a very small window of opportunity for getting us there.”
I didn’t like the sound of this. Not one bit.
And as we sprinted toward the plane I liked it even less. A steady rain was still falling and a heavy wind was gusting southward from the bay. The sky was the color of lead.
As in lead balloon.
There were just two other passengers, a middle-aged woman and her teenage son. The mother, visibly nervous, was over-compensating with a steady stream of lame wisecracks. The son, in the time-honored tradition of adolescent males, just looked profoundly bored.
The pilot looked pretty out of it too. I couldn’t decide if this was a good sign or not. Maybe flying in this kind of weather was about as adrenalin-generating for him as a stroll in the spring rain would be for me.
On the other hand, maybe he was in the midst of a take-no-prisoners child custody battle with his alcoholic ex-wife and had stopped caring several court appearances ago if he lived or died.
As we turned and began taxiing down the short runway, the rain picked up and the wind shook the small craft with a vengeance. And as the pilot gunned the engine for take-off and we plowed down the runway, the plane listed so violently to the west I was pretty sure we were finished.
The teenager yawned extravagantly as we lifted off into the turbulent skies.
I hated him.
Up we crawled, giant sheets of rain washing over the plane. It was like being in a massive washing machine that was stuck on some rogue setting between rinse and spin.
“What’s your favorite restaurant on the island?” our female fellow passenger leaned back and asked.
Talk about non sequiturs.
“Uh…” I muttered, my mind definitely elsewhere (to be honest, I was hoping my mother would remember to recite “I felt a funeral in my brain…” as she and 500 of our closest friends, all weeping copiously, spread our ashes over Nantucket Harbor).
“How about Second Course? Have you tried it?”
“Yep, we went there New Year’s Eve,” said Michael, clearly vying with the teenager for the “Calmest Passenger in an Airline Disaster” Award.
“Good, but not great.”
“I like Bananas,” said the teenager, who had not spoken one word all afternoon but decided, now that we were facing certain extinction, to sprout a personality. “Their fries are the best.”
Frankly I’ve always thought their fries were a bit on the soggy side but since my teeth were chattering so hard my fillings were likely to fly out any minute I decided to keep my opinion to myself.
After five minutes or so, as my fellow passengers nattered on about the pros and cons of Veritas, Conuco and El Quenepo, I noticed that we were flying in the wrong direction.
As in, due north. And we were supposed to be flying pretty much due east.
I tugged on Michael’s shirttail. “Huh?” he said distractedly.
“We’re headed the wrong way.”
“I noticed that.”
“What do you think’s going on?”
“Oh, who knows.”
“But we’ve been flying north ever since we took off.”
“Holding pattern,” said the lady.
“Holding patterns are circular,” I replied.
“The fries at Bili’s aren’t bad either,” continued the teenager, obviously determined to divest himself, at this supremely inopportune moment, of all the inane thoughts he’d stored up in his brain during the previous four hours of dead silence.
Just then, the plane banked sharply to the right and began flying due south.
“Looks like we’re headed back to San Juan,” said the lady, gurgling nervously. “Now that was a short vacation.”
Just as I was reflecting that no jury in the world would convict me if I’d strangled her then and there, I turned and looked out the left-hand window and was greeted with a sight that quelled all thoughts, murderous and otherwise…
Yes, dear reader, it was a double rainbow.