I have neglected Notes in the misguided belief that this would allow extra hours to be dedicated to a larger writing project. Instead it has meant even less words committed to paper. So at Miami airport with time to spare I will, dear readers, try to make amends.
Since returning to this small rock in September it appears to have shrunk to even less than the 21 by 14 miles acknowledged on maps. Some days even the air seems scarce. The unusual heat is partly to blame. Or it could be the intrusion on our civil rights of mandatory fingerprinting at Grantley Adams International Airport introduced without warning or legislation. Perhaps the island also got a little smaller the day a photograph was published in The Nation showing the public flogging of school children – just punishment meted out for arriving late at school. Most surveys, radio call-in programmes and press have joined in a righteous chorus supporting “de rod”. I am considering home schooling.
‘Paradise is slipping away.’ I whispered to Jack the Jack Russell.
He did not even open half an eye in acknowledgment. And this is supposed to be man’s best friend. I want to go home. Of course it is an absurd request. So I kissed the family goodbye for a couple days hoping to inhale different air.
In Miami there are the well-rehearsed distractions of sushi, a few arty friends and shopping. I planned to buoy up the economy with purchases of Christmas presents, novelties for holiday entertaining and fulfilling First and Second Born’s impossibly long wish list. But that required stamina and enthusiasm for all manner of unnecessary plastic objects. After a day of sushi for lunch and dinner as well as mandatory visits to the Apple Store and Pottery Barn I had lost the will to buy. By the following day I had opted instead for a poolside lounger coupled with a divine novel – the latest offering from William Trevor recounting the ordinary tale of a chance at present love denied by ghosts of a distant past.
But peace never came in this temporary home. Sleep was impossible. I spent last night haunting the less obvious spaces of the hotel and exploring the deserted financial district that surrounded it. My fellow insomniacs and I made a curious sight. Shift workers walked quickly and stayed in the shadows. Above the streets two lovers laughed and kissed on their balcony. Later I stumbled on Walgreens – Open 24 hours. My friend H. had a request so I went inside in search of Reece’s sweeties. Despite pacing up and down each aisle only two packets of candy and a new toothbrush found their way into the shopping trolley.
I walked out past a woman with a harsh, angular face and blank eyes, a cigarette burning between her fingers. We did not acknowledge each other. It seemed the only way to respect whatever private demons had led us at this unusual hour to these lonely streets. I walked and walked and walked hoping the act of one foot in front the other would make time tick faster. Back at the hotel the wall clock showed 5am. In one hour the night would be forced to give way to the first tentative morning light. A man seated in the lobby was wearing yesterday’s light blue suit and a still knotted paisley tie. His left hand twitched with involuntary spasms. His face was oddly contorted. He used his steady hand to keep the coffee cup from spilling. I wanted to go over, hold his hands and tell him everything was going to be okay. If his trembling stopped would mine not also end? As if sensing my intrusive thoughts he got up abruptly and walked over to the lift and with a deep sigh pressed the ‘up’ button. He was ready at last to confront the dread within his well-appointed room. Does this dread follow him, hiding under the bed and behind the curtains? Is it in every hotel room in every city? I stared at his disappearing form and tears flowed down my face.
By 7am this morning in the full glare of morning I decided to return to Bim earlier than planned. The household will survive without the new linens, kettle and DS games I should have secured. The first available flight is not until early evening but I cannot stay in this room and I am too exhausted to walk anymore. Airports are great places to be alone and yet surrounded by people. Eight hours in Miami International might in different circumstances be a descent into hell but today it is a respite. Instead of the airport lounge I have opted for the loudest, busiest spot available. I opened my laptop and began to write.
With each tap of the keys the night is lulled to sleep.
I'll be home soon.