Baggage Claim

by Molly Carey-Topping | December 23, 2023

Our suitcases stutter forward, past
packets and tins, slices and loaves.
I catch myself in every reflective surface.
Wrinkled shirt in the countertop; slick,

blotchy profile looming in the cool glass
of the cloches; wisps of manic hair creeping
in the sunglasses atop so many heads. It is
almost a relief when my turn comes. Cracked

and dirty fingers feebly point to the board.
Concentration slipping, the air plummets
from my throat to my stomach. All swims
in a nauseating haze. Jabbing, clawing,

stabbing, peeling. My tawdry film is
stripped until I am bare, exposed like
a nerve. Limbs inverted weakly, a
thousand tiny insects writhing over me.

Four crescents branded into each palm.
Yet, I am silent. Frozen. In thought and
in body—stuck, caught behind a smile.
I take a seat opposite her, the tears

and screaming from only a few hours
before still boiling in the back of my throat.
Her innocuous gaze honed in on my face,
eyes big and white as moons.

Words by Molly Carey-Topping. Art by Ayomikun Bolaji.