I arrive in Amsterdam as the sun breaks over the horizon, and the airport is familiar. I was just here. I came through on my way to…where? Abu Dhabi? Nairobi? The travel blurs, and I forget to keep seeing, too comfortable in the movement. The woman’s cries as soon as I settle on flight KLM flight 871 to Delhi awaken me. She is keening, repeating a phrase over and over in a language I don’t recognize. Louder, repetitive, insistent, urgent. I’m hurting or Let me go or Leave me alone. All heads turn towards her voice, rising somewhere from the last center rows of the plane as passengers place their bags overhead, unfurl cheap fleece blankets. But there is no woman—or is it a child?—to be seen. Just five large men, one in an orange vest, another with a shiny metal badge affixed to his hip, one with a shaved head, all staring inward to where this invisible but beckoning creature must be. They don’t speak to her, or gesture as though to restrain her or help her. They just watch, silent, patient. All the rest of the passengers look at each other for some guidance. Is she hurt? Why aren’t they helping? What is going on? Is it a child? The flight attendant near us explains. They are being deported, sent back. They did not have the right papers. Everyone wants to come for a better life, for their children, for their families, but these are the rules. It continues, the ceaseless sound from the back of the plane, the same phrase, over and over, loud, crucial, occasionally joined by a man’s voice—or is it a boy? I can’t see him either. My response is visceral, as though she is a babe crying for nourishment and I am a mother with full breasts. But there is nothing to do, and I turn my eyes back to my book, though I read nothing. Ignoring the commotion and straining my neck to witness it both feel a violation of some sort. One of the large men says They’ll quiet down once we get going, and he is right. When I walk to the back of the airplane later, she is slumped down with her head on the drop-down table, her black hijab a shroud over her head. The man, in his thirties, has headphones on, his eyes sealed shut. And there, on the other side of the aisle, two small children framed in by two of the agents. What is their story? Were they driven more by a desire to get to the Netherlands or away from India? What awaits them back in South Asia? What might they have been forced to leave behind and where? Soon we are high in the sky. Ice crystals cross-hatch the plastic windows, clouds and blue beyond. Passengers have fallen asleep. I think of all the stories strapped into this one plane, hurtling around the globe. That the metals rivets can contain them is as much a miracle as the fact that we can travel 10,000 meters above the surface of the earth, and slumber so peacefully.