the 7- or 8-year-old child on the airplane is screaming– blood-curdling, lung-rattling shrieks– and then words tumbling out, falling over one another– I wanna die I wanna diiiiieeee– I want to kill myself I wanna kill myself with a knife!— shhhh shhhh, murmur murmur from the mother– mommy I don’t wanna fly– it’s scary– mother, it’s sc-sc-scary— murmur murmur– then again a panicked crescendo– I wanna die I wanna die I wa— finally muffled crying as if he’s been braced against his mother’s chest. the flight attendants check in periodically. the captain comes back. all this while we’re still at the gate, unmoving. the voice breaks your heart, its stumbley consonants, phlegmy heaves. the scream at first is that of a toddler– but then: the words. to live like this. poor, poor child.

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