I am escorting an old Ukrainian to Ukraine. She does not trust me. I cannot speak to her. I arrange to stop over in Grand Rapids and leave the old woman alone in the Atlantic of the gate, blue chairs like sad, still waves she does not trust not to pull her under. I search the shops for a chocolate ganache cake I have only been able to taste in my memory, and when I return, my mouth ringed with the debris of my feasting, she is as I left her, standing in the space crowds carve out for those who will not ever belong.
The flight is long and heavy. The old woman rests her eyes, but I can feel her watching. After the proper interval, she raises the armrest so she can sink part of herself more fully into my location. Her thigh has the consistency of a clove of garlic. I press myself back against her and wait for the bruise in my sleep.
When we step off the plane, when our feet touch the asphalt that hides the hard, packed soil underneath, I understand there is nothing I can do for her. I face her fully for the first time, my mouth opening and closing mechanically without knowing the question I have come here for. Stop asking for words, the old woman says to me suddenly. There are no words for Ukraine.