The air conditioner in the car was blasting. But even at night, without the sun shining down into the windshield, it was so hot, that the AC could barely sputter out any cold air. The plane was already two hours late. There were thunderstorms on the west coast.
We did another lap around the passenger pickup.
My phone buzzed. His plane landed. They were taxiing on the runway. He didn’t have a lot of luggage. He was on his way home from a business trip in Washington state, and he was used to traveling light. But it would probably still be another twenty minutes.
Time to do another lap around passenger pickup.
We pull up the automatic doors at baggage claim. I fidget with the radio display, and find a certain song on my phone, and cue it to start as I start to take off my seatbelt.
“Really?” My fiancé asks when he sees what I’m getting ready for the car to play.
“Trust me,” I say. I open the car door and step down from the SUV. “I’m going to go get him since there are way too many exits at this baggage claim, and I want to avoid anything that might frustrate him.”
“Okay.” I close the door behind me.
It’s been barely a minute and my hair has already started to frizz, and I can feel the sweat starting to pour down my face. Houston humidity at its finest. Or maybe it’s anxiety. Sometimes I can’t tell the difference. My cat-bitten flip flops make a small sound as I take steps towards the revolving doors. As I get inside the baggage claim, the buzz of the air-conditioner provides a slight relief. I walked towards the monitors and start to scan the baggage claim assignments.
It doesn’t take very long before I spot my brother. It’s been a while since I’ve seen him, and even longer since we’ve had an in-person conversation. I had come home the previous summer, but he had been away on a business trip to Germany. He looks the same. He carries a beat-up black leather satchel over his shoulder. He comes over to me, hands in the pocket of his ill-fitting khaki pants.
“What’s up?” he asks.
“Nothing,” I say.
“How are you? Is it…?”
“They say it should be gone, but I don’t know.”
“How do you feel?”
I shrug. “Empty, I guess.” I start walking towards the doors. “He’s waiting in the car.” My brother starts following me. We don’t really have much to say to each other. We never have. Even as children, we were never really close. I know he’s only here because I had cancer.
We get over to the car. I get in the front seat and my brother gets in the back. He and my fiancé exchange pleasantries, then my brother starts texting on his phone. It’s silent, but not awkwardly so.
As he shifts the car into gear, I hit play on my phone.
A familiar sounding melody starts playing through the speakers.
On cue, my brother starts singing, “Valjean, at least, we see another plain, 'm'sieur le mayor, you’ll wear a different chain.”
I join in. “Before you say another word, Javert, Before you chain me up like a slave again,” and for two minutes it’s just like childhood.