“Your cat is in business class.”
Startled, I looked up from my magazine and regarded the flight attendant. She couldn’t mean my cat, who was asleep in her carrier under the seat in front of me. “You must have the wrong passenger,” I said. “Mine’s right here.” I pulled the cat carrier into view. The zipper was open. The cat was gone.
“Oh God,” I said. “How did…?” The flight attendant scolded me for letting her out. “I didn’t let her out! She was asleep! It was zipped! I gave her a sedative in the car!” She didn’t believe me. “Just go get your cat.”
I jumped up and ran into business class ahead of her. Panicked, I reasoned that my sedated animal would be moving at a drunk’s pace. There she was, groggily skulking the length of the cabin through an underground steel city of seat frames, weaving around people’s feet. This presented two problems: first, that I’d have to step over people to grab her, and second, that any sudden movement or noise would frighten my fur baby.
United’s upper echelon riders from San Francisco to Chicago screamed in surprise when they spotted her. She was grey with white leggings and had an uneven white patch on her face. I crouched in the aisle for a closer look. Her pupils were dilated like a teenage stoner’s.
She crept to the front row. When her little white-whiskered face peered out from under the aisle seat, I reached to grab her. Except… in the clear, she suddenly darted forward—into first class.
Meal service was underway. White linen cloths covered the first-class trays. I heard the clink of real silverware. Another crew member showed up, holding my cat’s carrier. She said, “The zipper is broken. It was pulled from the inside.”
I tracked the cat’s passage through first class. Finally, now in the aisle, she staggered to the end of the line, the cockpit door, where she bumped up against it and fell into a little heap. I scooped her up and stood, facing first class. People were staring at me, forks poised in mid-air. I felt some kind of announcement was called for. “I am SO SORRY,” I said to everyone.
The flight attendant said, “Go back to your seat, please.” She escorted us, the cat now back in the carrier, masking tape from the galley covering the busted zipper.
I’d been in California writing a memoir. Writing my life, I worried every day that I was disclosing too much: about my parents, family, relationships, peoples’ tsouris. What was necessary for context, what was Too Much Information? I’d thought about this for more than a year.
The trip home had to be beshert. In my book and in the air, the cat was out of the bag.
Pam Janis is Moment Magazine‘s Beshert editor and the author of Thank You, Everyone: A Lifetime of Gratitude in Letters. She also writes speeches and ghostwrites books. She lives in Washington, DC. Follow her on Twitter @pamjanis3.