When Macy's best friend's family invited her to spend three weeks in Ireland over the summer, she had no idea what to expect.
I wondered idly whether there was anything supplied on a standard overseas airline flight with which one might successfully execute a quick suicide. Maybe I was just tired.
To my left, Allison's chatter continued into its ninth solid hour. She couldn't wait, she said. First, she was going to get a hot red-headed vacation boyfriend, she said. With freckles, she said; the cutest ones have freckles.
I nodded from time to time, as I dutifully ignored my crossword puzzle and listened to her straight-out-of-Marie-Claire ramblings. Listening was the least I could do in exchange for an invitation to her Sweet 16, especially when her Sweet 16 was a family trip to Ireland. And in fairness, she hadn't been talking about shallow nonsense the entire time.
But she was wearing me out.
The airline had upgraded two of our seats to make up for an error, so Allison and I were separated from her parents and brother, who were sound asleep in coach, merciful yards away from Allison's boundless verbal energy. As the captain's dull voice sounded over the intercom, announcing the local time of 6:45 a.m., I wished we were all sitting together. I felt increasingly nervous and far from home without the Keanes close by.
There was a little paper bag in the seat pocket, and I grabbed it just in case, while Allison rattled on about the outfit she planned to wear to breakfast.
Gingerly, my mind elsewhere, I brushed graham cracker crumbs out of the creases of my jeans and prepared to set foot on a different continent. I'd be a zillion miles from my house and my dad and all my stuff. I had been looking forward to this trip for months, and suddenly all I wanted was to go back home and sign up for band camp instead. For some reason, it took all my concentration not to burst into tears.
I tried to focus on something positive. Rolling hills. Music. Castles. Quaint villages. The promise that at some point, Allison would have to go to sleep.
"I wish we had been in a three-seat row," Allison had sighed when we boarded. "Maybe we would've sat with a cute Irish guy." She had stretched to look around the plane, then pointed to a shaggy-haired boy in a white hoodie, stuffing a guitar case into the overheard compartment. "Maybe him!"
I had giggled, still high on the excitement of the day's travel ahead of us. "Or maybe that fat guy by the toilets," I'd whispered. "Maybe we're lucky we got moved."
Now, an ocean later, I no longer felt lucky. Yes, Allison was my best friend in the world. Our mothers had known each other since before I was born, and I loved her like a sister. I just really wished there had been someone else for her to talk to.
She gave my arm a little squeeze as the plane taxied to a stop and the seat belt sign went out.