Deysi is in the bath. The last three days have been made up of long mornings and afternoons at a disaster preparedness conference in Chicago. There have been expensive dinners paid by her employer and morning sex and evening sex with the occasional afternoon romp. It’s Wednesday and she is wondering how Richard is doing at home in San Francisco getting the girls ready for school. Her mind wanders as her eyes patrol the green walls, the glass shower at the foot of the tub, her red painted toes wiggling against the white enameled steel.
There comes a knock on the bathroom door and it opens and Ryan is standing in the doorway naked to his waist with a worried look.
“Deysi, you need to come see this.” Behind him in the room she can hear a news anchor describing what is
“A horrible scene this morning at the San Francisco airport as well as several popular tourist attractions including the famous Pier 39 where multiple explosions have gone off in what…”
“What is happening?” Deysi says, easing herself up in the tub, her breasts half submerged in bubbles.
“Just come look.”
When Deysi gets out of the tub she grabs her phone from the small table in the hotel room. She has twenty-five missed calls and several dozen text messages.
She immediately calls Richard.
Ryan is sitting on the king size bed with his phone to his ear watching the news footage as it continues to unfold.
“Richard, are the girls okay?” Deysi is on the balcony in her towel oblivious to how she might look, the room is on the fifth floor overlooking the pool.
“I've been trying to reach you all morning,” Richard says. “Its fucking nuts out here. Complete chaos.”
“The girls, are they okay?”
“Yes, we never left the house. Sarah couldn’t find her backpack again and I couldn't find the damn car keys. We were delayed ten minutes which was just enough time to hear the explosions while we loaded up in the car. They sounded terrifying…”
“Oh, thank God.”
“We got lucky. We drive right through some of the areas that have been hit. I don’t know what would have happened.”
Deysi sits down in one of the chairs on the balcony, her stomach turning in knots.
“I need to get home. The airport, I'll have to call the airline.”
“We’re safe, just stay there. No point in coming home. You’ll be safer in Chicago.”
“Richard, are you kidding me? I have to come home. I need to see my girls.”
“If you feel like you really need to get home then maybe you could fly into San Jose. I could pick you up. We could drive to my parents in San Luis Obispo.”
“Let me call the airline.”
In the room Ryan is calling everyone he knows for the whereabouts of his wife and son.
“I’m sorry,” his brother Charles says over the phone.
“I can’t get into the city, they aren’t letting anyone in--or out. I won't be able to search for them.”
“I have to get home,” Ryan says.
Deysi comes back into the room and sits on the sofa. Ryan hangs up and says, “They aren’t letting anyone in or out of the city.”
“What do you mean? My husband is going to pick me up in San Jose. I can ask him if he can take you someplace too...”
Ryan looks at her, “We shouldn’t be here. I shouldn’t be.”
“But you are. And so am I.”
“I don’t care if they won’t let us in,” Deysi says, “I need to get to California. You need to get to California. Have you heard from her?”
“No. I’m really worried.”
Deysi gets up and sits next to Ryan, she rests her head on his bare shoulder. She kisses his cheek. She wants so badly to run her hand down his chest but he isn’t letting off the energy that she craves. She feels a mixture of confusing and competing emotions of wanting to take the next flight back to her girls and the desire to push Ryan down on the bed and to take him all in.
“It’ll be okay,” she says, “we know what’s happening on the ground at least. Those people down there trying to manage the incident are just like us.”
“That doesn’t make me feel any better.”
Deysi calls the airline. She spends forty five minutes talking to a woman who is unable to adequately help her. She hangs up and calls back and gets someone else, but trying to book a flight amongst the chaos proves impossible and exhausting. She hangs up again when her efforts are stranded on hold.
“Everything is already booked. We’re too late.”
“What the fuck are we going to do?”
“I don’t know. I would say let's try and focus on the conference but I’m sure it will be cancelled for the remainder of the week if it hasn’t already.”
What she wants to say is, “we could fuck all day..?” but she doesn’t. She pretends to mope like him and she is worried for her girls, she knows this, they are the most important thing to her in the entire world. But there is nothing that can be done. So why not just take advantage of the moment? But she knows for Ryan it isn’t the same thing. He hasn’t heard from his family and she needs to be understanding.
“Let's go to the bar,” Deysi suggests. “Lets go get a drink and relax for a moment. Give it some time. It sounds like a complete mess out there. Cell towers could be down, she might have lost her phone, who knows what has happened. There isn’t much we can do.”
At the hotel bar Ryan tries over and over again to reach Tracy but her phone only goes to voicemail. Everyone he speaks to doesn’t know where she is.
“I can’t handle this,” he says.
Deysi touches his hand and he looks around the bar before pulling it back.
“We’re in Chicago. No one knows who we are.”
“I just can’t right now, Deysi. I’m a little overwhelmed. Why can’t you understand that?”
“I’m sorry. I wish there was something I could do. I just hate seeing you like this.”
The tv in the bar is playing footage of the carnage in San Francisco. The talking heads give the most up to date information. The footage from a helicopter hovers over what's left of Fisherman's Wharf, the scene below is a disturbing mixture of debris and bodies, survivors disorientated and fleeing.
“This is one of the most destructive days ever in the history of the United States...”
“I can’t believe this is happening,” Deysi says.
“I’m going to go to the airport… I have too,” Ryan says, “I can’t just sit here. Or even better I could drive home… we’ll be there in a little more than a day.”
Ryan abruptly gets up without finishing his beer. Deysi watches him go and feels herself confused by what she sees on the tv. She feels relieved that Richard and the girls are okay. She feels terrible for Ryan and she wishes that he could get a hold of her so that things could go back to normal. She just wants to curl up next to him in the room for a week or two and not worry about what is happening in the reality that seems so far away.
Ryan is sitting in the rental car checking the mirrors when Deysi calls him.
“What now?” She asks when he says “hello?”
“I’m going to drive. I can pick you up.”
When they reach Nebraska Deysi takes over driving.
“Still nothing?” she asks looking over as Ryan checks his phone.
As the day progresses more major cities across the nation are hit by the domestic terror group that has since claimed responsibility for the attacks. More news is released about how the group was communicating across social media and had been plotting the attacks for several months. Several members had been discovered to be employees at or near the targeted sites. The FBI was able to determine that at least three of the San Francisco bombers worked for the TSA. It had been revealed too that the FBI had been tipped off several months previously but failed to act. The national guard had been deployed to D.C, California, Oregon, and Vermont to respond to either more bombings or threats.
In a hotel in Salt Lake City Deysi lies under the covers of one of the two queen size beds in the room. Ryan comes out of the bathroom and gets into the other bed.
“You don’t have to sleep there,” she says, “I don’t know why you are acting so weird.”
“I can hardly think straight. I don’t know what to do with myself.”
“I wish you would just come here. You need me right now. What happens after this doesn’t matter. When we get home I mean. Come here.”
Ryan stares at the tv, the news still unfolding.
“Can we watch something else please,” he says.
Deysi turns the channel.
Ryan sits on his bed, the room is dark and the tv light dances on his bare chest and legs and he finally gets up and slides into bed with Deysi where he pulls his warm body against hers. They embrace, their bodies wrapping together in the tv light. In the glow of commercials and romantic drama they make love.
As they approach Oakland California the traffic slowly gets thicker until they finally have to stop completely on the 580 and like everyone else they kill the engine.
The quiet is sudden and complete. It's finally broken when Deysi says, “what now?”
Ryan’s phone begins to vibrate and he immediately picks it up.
“Hello? Yes… Okay… okay, oh my God… Thank you so much you have no idea what this means to me. But are they okay? Okay… okay… I’m almost to the city… okay thank you so much.” He hangs up and begins to sob.
Deysi touches his shoulder, “what is it?”
“They're alive. Gabriel is in the hospital with Tracy. She’s injured… they were at the pier,” he begins to cry uncontrollably.
“I’ll get you to them, I promise.”
He sobs to himself and Deysi gets out of the car to see what she can see ahead. For miles there are cars all facing Oakland and the Bay Bridge.
“I don’t think we are going anywhere for awhile,” she says when she gets back into the car.
“I wonder what would happen if we ditched the rental?” she says.
They walk in between the cars and people stare at them as they go by. Over the bay helicopters hover. The sky is clear and the temperature is in the low seventies. The breeze is cool and the security checkpoint on the Bay Bridge is armed with several national guards and Humvees. As Ryan and Deysi approach, a man in army fatigues yells for them to stop and turn around, an assault rifle hangs from his neck.
“We need to get across,” Deysi says as they get closer.
“No one is crossing at this time. You need to turn around.”
“My children need me! I have to get to them. Both of us have kids we need to find. Please.”
“Miss, you and everyone else. I can’t let you pass.”
“Please! You have no idea how much this will mean to us.”
The soldier looks behind him then behind Ryan and Deysi. No one else has left their cars to approach the line.
“Okay,” he says, “but I’ll have to cuff you.”
“Like handcuffs?” an image of the hotel room in Chicago flashes across her mind.
He pulls out a pair and tells her to turn around.
They are loaded into a hummer and taken across the bridge into San Francisco and dropped off at UCSF Medical Center.
“Thank you so much,” Deysi says as the hummer drives away.
“So this is where they are?”
“My brother was able to track them down… I don’t know why I didn’t think to call the hospitals.”
“Everything will be okay. We made it… here we are in the midst of the chaos… they will recover.”
“What are you going to do?”
“I’ll have Richard pick me up or I’ll take a taxi or something. Will you keep me updated? Tell me that things end up okay? If you need to talk to me please do--okay?”
“I will.” he stares down at his feet then around at the medical buildings, his eyes are full of anxiousness and confusion.
“Whatever happens after this…”
“Deysi, I don’t know what to think about anything. I don’t know what happens next.”
“You don’t have to think about anything but what you need to do right now. And that is to go find your family, okay?”
“I want to be selfish and hear you tell me that you love me. But I know we are living two different lives. I want you to be happy, really, that is all I have ever wanted. Just do one thing for me…”
“I mean, you don’t have to if you don’t want to. We aren’t in Chicago anymore.”
“What do you want me to do?”
“I want you to kiss me one more time… in case it's the last.”
Somewhere in the city there are smoldering embers. There are ambulances driving with their sirens carrying burn victims and people with blown off appendages. There are police officers with soot across their faces and people screaming in the street. Doctors and nurses tending to broken limbs and communicating to family that mothers and fathers and children aren’t able to recover from their injuries, that they have succumbed. And then there is UCSF Medical Center, busy as hell and a red car in an intersection outside the medical buildings runs a red light nearly hitting a pedestrian and in the midst of chaos there are these two lovers--kissing on a street corner.