It’s not my first time leaving for an extended period of time, but the pattern seems to undulate in a predictable way each time.
An idea, the formulation of a plan, the fear, then the excitement, followed by endless days of anticipation and finally the big day. The D Day arrives.
The day that sees come to fruition an endless wait. And that day always tastes sweet.
Today I woke up early, my neatly-packed backpack sitting quietly by the bed, everything ready, awaiting but me.
Dawn had just broken when I closed the door; moistness from the cool night blanketed the pinks and yellows of the English gardens en route to the train station into London and then on to the airport. The quietness of the street broken by my hurried step and the flight of resting pigeons, jerking into motion at my sudden arrival.
I inhaled the humid air, listened to the sound of the bird’s wings cutting the pink of the morning sky, slowed down my pace and just listened. I decided that from now on, I will try to listen. Really listen.
The wheels are in motion, I am in command, I bear all responsibility and credit for where I am, so why not make up the rules as I go! And I listened.
I watched every bit of the green country-side transform itself into the shiny and concrete London jungle… I smiled and enjoyed it all.
Once at Heathrow airport, I sat down at one of their cafes for the customary overpriced airport breakfast. Everyone seemed friendly, accommodating, cheerful and alive. Everyone smiled. Or was it just me?
I felt the need to have one last look at the internet, send a couple of messages… you know, in case we crashed… So I logged on to the airport’s free wifi – limited to 45 minutes.
Before I could properly log on, I listened once more. This time to the lady sitting next to me, who had just accosted the waiter to ask a question about her mobile phone. “My daughter convinced me to get this, but I have got no clue on how to top up the minutes”. She put on her glasses, looked meaningfully at the kind waiter and after a brief discussion they came to the conclusion that she should use the payphone to settle the matter of adding credit to her phone.
But I was listening, and offered to call the number, avoiding her the trouble of having to get up. When my attempts were proven unsuccessful, she offered her apologetic thanks and very naturally proceeded to tell me about her villa in Turkey, her wonderful family who would be joining her there with all the grandkids, that time her husband stepped on a poisonous creature in the sea and Oh how cross she was that he hadn’t listened to her advice to wear sea shoes, and how they had to do a tourniquet, he was blue all over, their spending money all gone to pay for the medical fees – “They only take cash you know”…
I was enjoying it, immensely.
Yet an internal mechanism, akin to a stopwatch that monitors all moves, thoughts and creative deviations, was turning my attention to the computer, to my emails, and that 45 minutes that was now most decidedly closer to 20… My mind, as if split, oscillated from the warmth of the encounter to the plan I had set, to those precious minutes that were carried away with each new turn of Marianne’s story.
Her smile was golden and in between her husband’s misadventure and her 37 years working with Turkish Airlines, I halted the stopwatch, turned resolutely away from the computer and gave my full attention to Marianne. And I listened.
I never got to send those emails, but by halting the stopwatch, I somehow felt like I gained time.