Layover

By Caitlin Cowan

Featured art by Serzill Hasan

There was a mechanical bull and a waitress
who flirted with everyone. There was a rainbow
of cocktails served lukewarm in pint glasses,
two fingers of dread. We’d missed a flight
in bad weather but had been offered another.
There was only one seat. He wanted me
to get on, but I said no—wouldn’t leave him.

Interred at a dark sports bar, we ended
the night eating wings cruelly torn
from an Atlanta–area buffalo. He watched
five games at once—linebackers creaming each other
in snow—and nothing was enough. Outside
I dialed a friend, asked her Is it weird he wanted me
to leave without him?
At the airport hotel

he laid his head on the sticky desk
in front of the mirror, defeated.
He was beside himself—
one version quite literally slumping
next to the other, and only one of them still

my husband. My eyes hurt from the obvious
overhead lighting. I asked him if he was okay
until I felt insane. We never know
how long we’ll have to rest,
how long we’ll nap in the terminal
of not good enough before we run,
out of breath, to board something better

I wouldn’t recognize myself
for years, had so far to go until
I could become a woman I’d want to know.

That night, there were gas station 40s and Cheetos.
There may have been pay-per-view porn.
Back home in Texas, Jolene may have been waiting
for his return: I couldn’t hurry my knowing.
It was Christmas. When I opened
his gift, he whispered next year
and better. But there was no next year,
no better.


Caitlin Cowan’s poetry, fiction, and nonfiction are forthcoming or have appeared in The Rumpus, Pleiades, Missouri Review, SmokeLong Quarterly, Rappahannock Review, and elsewhere. She holds a PhD in English and has taught writing at the University of North Texas, Texas Woman’s University, and Interlochen Center for the Arts. She works, travels, and teaches for Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp in Twin Lake, Michigan. Find her at caitlincowan.com.

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