Edwidge Danticat
It was one of the longest trips of my life. On the first leg of the three-plane jaunt, the flight was delayed two hours, leaving me with a mere ten minutes to dash to the second plane. When I arrived at the third airport, two people ran through the security checkpoint, resulting in the airport's being shut down for hours. As I boarded the final plane, a small propper, I hit my forehead so hard that I nearly passed out, acquiring a fist-size bump in the process. The worst part of the trip, however, was that I didn't want to be on it. An acquaintance had asked me to give a reading at her school during an extremely busy time of the year, and to make her happy, I had said yes.

A week before the trip, I called the school to check on the travel arrangements and was told that I was expected to make them myself and would be reimbursed later. I was tempted to book a first-class ticket on a first-rate airline, but because my acquaintance's school was low on funds, I got a discount ticket on the Internet, which sent me on that game of musical flights.

When I finally reached her city, I was hungry and exhausted. Still, I proceeded to make small talk with my hostess on the hour-long car ride to my lodging. She was very cheerful, and between questions ranging from the color of my childhood house to my college English courses, she laid out the next day's heavy schedule of morning assemblies and afternoon classroom visits—which had not been part of our original agreement.

Not wanting to appear disagreeable, I bit my tongue and whispered, "Fine." Meanwhile I could feel the bump on my forehead growing bigger and bigger, like Pinocchio's nose rising after he told a lie.

When I got to the hotel, in order to bury my well-concealed frustration, I consumed a total of 15 chocolate hearts, which had been decoratively placed around the room. The next day, however, the chocolate did nothing to sweeten my disposition or to make the bump on my forehead, which overnight had completely turned black-and-blue, go away. I did the best I could to conceal the swelling with makeup, but by the time I left the hotel room, what I often jokingly refer to as my already wide and ample "four-head" was more like a "five-head." Nevertheless, I addressed the morning assemblies and then trudged through the back-to-back afternoon classes, praying I wouldn't faint from exhaustion or lose my voice.