This Isn't My Suitcase
My hair frizzes up with the humidity. It tickles the back of my neck, damp with sweat. The second I’m done unpacking, I’m going for a swim in the pool. Maybe the water will help me.
Josh runs around the house. He’s got his phone out, taking pictures of every little thing – from the bamboo lampshade to the vast stretches of jungle that surrounds us in all directions. The Jeep we took to get here sits in the driveway. Sunlight glares down on it and shines back up like a beacon. In its windshield wiper, I see a dozen long leaves and its tires are splattered with mud. I still feel sick from the bumpy ride.
I throw the suitcase onto the bed, arms weak. Staying up until five in the morning and waking up at the same time are two very different tasks, I found. Maybe it’s just the stress, I think as I glance around the room. The idea to fly out here for ten days came to Josh a mere ten minutes before he ordered tickets for our flight, and the next morning we were on the plane. The mad dash to pack and book the days off gave me a 48-hour headache. My temples still throb a bit at the mere thought of it all.
I’m here now, I remind myself. And looking at the king-sized bed, I know I don’t regret the snap decision. Anyway, I should be used to it by now. It’s not like this is our first impromptu trip to the tropics. My fingers probe the suitcase for its zipper. I look down.
This isn’t my suitcase.
Mine has a red handle. This one is black all over. It’s still hot from the afternoon sun. I lift it. My arms feel like jelly, it’s so heavy. I must have grabbed the wrong one in my confusion at the airport. Strange, croaking birdsong accompanies my puzzlement as I open the bag’s clasps. It opens with ease.
Right on top, there sits a long bag of toiletries, a small first aid kit, a pair of sandals, and an array of vibrant Hawaiian shirts. I pick each item up and lay them on the bed. I poke my finger through a hole in the knee of green cargo shorts. I come across a map of the jungles, and a flashlight that sits on top. Very prepared, I think with a bit of admiration. A beach towel covers the rest. I lift it.
A bunch of black cases sit within. I unzip the largest. At first, I wonder if it’s the suitcase of a chef. A group of knives glares shinily back at me. I unstrap the cleaver and feel its weight. Maybe there were plans for a home-cooked dinner. But I soon recognize one of the blades to be a machete. I frown, and lift the knife case from its place. I carefully set it beside the holey cargo shorts and blinding shirts. Nearby, the schnap-click! of Josh’s phone goes off. I jump. When I hear his footsteps pound down the stairs to the den, I open up the next case. This one makes my heart race.
I can’t say for sure if it’s a fake gun or not. I don’t want to touch it. As if it would go off if my fingers grazed it, I gently shut the case’s flap over the foreboding weapon. I zip it up. Are guns even legal here? I never had time to research. Josh kept grabbing my hands and swooping me into a salsa dance every time I tried to ask a question. This is gonna be so much fun, Terra. You’re gonna love it.
I dissect the rest of the cases, except for those that sit under the gun. Josh’s bare feet squeak across the kitchen tiles. I’m tempted to call him up here. But with every bag I open, my voice retreats even further into me. Bottles of thin liquid and four syringes; a Taser Gun made to look like a phone; a hunting knife with a razored edge. I gulp, and stare at it as I hold it tight in my sweaty hand. How did all this get through security? It doesn’t matter how, I guess. All that matters is that it’s here.
Josh’s voice is so close, my stomach twists. The knife drops onto the floor by my bare foot and nicks me. I immediately throw everything back into the suitcase, trying to organize it back into the way I found it. I slam it shut and close the clasps. Finally, I scoop up the knife, close it, and jam it into my shorts pocket. He strolls in not a second too soon. I turn to face him.
“Got your suitcase,” he informs me with a grin, and holds it up. His hand’s nearly as red as the handle with the heat.
I return the smile. But Josh’s mouth falters, then turns down into a concerned frown. He tosses my suitcase on the bed and crouches.
“Sit down,” orders Josh, his voice suddenly grim. There’s blood on the floor. I do as I’m told, hands trembling.
“How did this happen?” he asks worriedly. He tilts my foot up by the heel to examine it.
I shrug. “I just... hit it against the bedside table, I guess. Never noticed until now.” My words are followed by a nervous laugh, but it’s drowned out by more foreign birdsong.
Josh shakes his head. “You need to be more careful, Terra. We don’t have travel insurance. I don’t want you to get hurt.”
“You never gave me time to get insurance, Josh.” My heart’s still pounding. I wonder if he can hear it. It nearly hides his next words.
Josh nods to the bed. “Open up my suitcase. I have a first aid kit in there.”
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