The Race

Posted for all those relatives–past and present–who do everything to share those last moments with their lovely ones.

The Race by Sharon Olds

When I got to the airport I rushed up to the desk,

bought a ticket, ten minutes later

they told me the flight was cancelled, the doctors

had said my father would not live through the night

and the flight was cancelled. A young man

with a dark brown moustache told me

another airline had a nonstop

leaving in seven minutes. See that

elevator over there, well go

down to the first floor, make a right, you’ll

see a yellow bus, get off at the

second Pan Am terminal, I

ran, I who have no sense of direction

raced exactly where he’d told me, a fish

slipping upstream deftly against

the flow of the river. I jumped off that bus with those

bags I had thrown everything into

in five minutes, and ran, the bags

wagged me from side to side as if

to prove I was under the claims of the material,

I ran up to a man with a flower on his breast,

I who always go to the end of the line, I said

Help me. He looked at my ticket, he said

Make a left and then a right, go up the moving stairs and then

run. I lumbered up the moving stairs,

at the top I saw the corridor,

and then I took a deep breath, I said

Goodbye to my body, goodbye to comfort,

I used my legs and heart as if I would

gladly use them up for this,

to touch him again in this life. I ran, and the

bags banged against me, wheeled and coursed

in skewed orbits, I have seen pictures of

women running, their belongings tied

in scarves grasped in their fists, I blessed my

long legs he gave me, my strong

heart I abandoned to its own purpose,

I ran to Gate 17 and they were

just lifting the thick white

lozenge of the door to fit it into

the socket of the plane. Like the one who is not

too rich, I turned sideways and

slipped through the needle’s eye, and then

I walked down the aisle toward my father. The jet

was full, and people’s hair was shining, they were

smiling, the interior of the plane was filled with a

mist of gold endorphin light,

I wept as people weep when they enter heaven,

in massive relief. We lifted up

gently from one tip of the continent

and did not stop until we set down lightly on the

other edge, I walked into his room

and watched his chest rise slowly

and sink again, all night

I watched him breathe.

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