Chloe stood on the airplane seat and looked at me unapologetically with deep, innocent eyes.
“I have to pee,” she explained.
Her purple diaper matched her outfit, and her outfit was really only for sleeping. But her mom had let her wear her pajamas on the flight, since the unicorns on the fabric matched the unicorns on her sandals. Totally made sense.
She pointed to a Ziploc bag at my side, which had a few hard-boiled eggs for my long travel day. She said that her brother, who was only two, likes eggs when they’re all yellow-orange jumbled, but she only likes the white part.
“Can I help with your eggs?”
I had no idea what she meant, but I handed her the Ziploc bag anyway. She had me at “I have to pee.”
She did some origami until the eggs were nestled in a cocoon of plastic, and then presented the package to me as a little gift.
“There you go. Now you can tell your friends you have a present for them, and when you say ‘just kidding’,’ your eggs will still be safe if they get mad.”
I hadn’t thought of that.
She was having trouble opening her sealed water cup, so I offered to help. She said, “yes, please” and “thank you” when I peeled back the foil on top of the cup.
She pointed to my napkin.
“So now I’ll help you.”
She unfolded the napkin, pulled down my tray table from the seatback, and spread the single sheet of paper cloth in front of me.
“Now you’re ready for your eggs.”
She was born in the year of the rabbit, and I wondered out loud what animal year I was born in. We tried to figure it out using her little fingers and our combined powers of deduction and elimination, but couldn’t land on an answer that satisfied both of us.
We did determine that she was from Singapore and her daddy was still there. She would see him again soon. She just didn’t know when.
And he was tall. Very tall. And she loved how he carried her to bed.
I followed her gaze down to her diaper, which had sprouted a small leak.
She threw her head back and laughed.
“It will be ok.”
Her words, not mine.
I was a little worried.
But it was ok. She stemmed the tide with a piece of napkin, and within a few minutes we were pulling into the gate.
She asked if I would walk off the plane with her. I told her it would be an honor.
She unbuckled her seatbelt and slid onto the floor, only to be bumped off-course by the relatively huge ass of a guy with a perfectly trimmed beard, gelled hair, phone in hand and headphones buried in his ears, clearly making some pretty big deals.
She turned around and held her hand out to me, before ducking the gargantuan carry-on he yanked down from the overhead bin. His frame separated us as he threw the bag down in the aisle.
I looked over the seats past him to catch her waiting eye.
But Chloe was gone.
She’d told me she was almost five.