There were times I felt like I had to write, I had the impulse, to save the moment. I thought I could just throw my arms out and surround it, I could throw my line in the water and bring back something worth keeping. I could piece together moments and make a whole life out of it, an identity born out of what I wrote because I was a writer. But once you sign on for that it’s a commitment you need to keep. When I let it go, there was nothing to replace it with. I tried on other “selves” (you can wear many), and some look better than others.
I sat in the aisle seat at the Schiphol airport thinking about that and picked up my phone to write. I took off the disposable sleep mask, but kept my headphones on. We had just been through London, Munich and Amsterdam in five days. Six nights away from home, counting the red-eye. On the last day I woke to my phone buzzing with mail, made the mistake of looking at it, got irritated and not long after, I got out of bed. I logged on and saw my reflection in the dark, and it wasn’t good. I sent some emails and closed it down and then packed up my things and went down to the lobby. The night guy was signing off. Breakfast wasn’t ready yet, I was 10 minutes early. I sent more messages from my phone, one to my client saying I’m here now, join me if you can. Then I ate, had two coffees, got the taxi for the airport, and sat in the back seat looking outside at the fog. We talked about our times in Amsterdam, before. We both felt good, going home. I pictured myself there and so did my client Jo, and we got to the airport sooner than we thought we would. I had to change my seat, and she had to eat, and everything went as it should.
I sat on the plane remembering the week, the small scenes like cards shuffling: the Italian restaurant from our last night, the walk back to the hotel, having a last drink at the hotel and looking for pictures of my dog on the phone. Feeling sad and disconnected from those scenes: my life, in sketches, what I took, what I saved. We all said goodbye and goodnight, and then I hit my head on the wall getting into bed, forgot to wear my night guard and felt the cold on my teeth in the morning. We hadn’t even been in Munich a full 24 hours, in and out. It was the first day of spring and I taught everyone the word Fruhling, I really stretched the word out in the middle when I said it. Before that we spent two nights in London, days full of meetings, hardly time for anything else. Business travel. Two words that shouldn’t go together. Me, passing through Holland and Germany in the airport with my blazer and carry-on, feeling like a businessman but not believing it, not wanting to, forgetting what it felt like to be a writer. It only feels that way when I’m writing.
When they brought the hot towels to clean your hands I used mine on my face. I saw myself landing and getting home to Dawn, opening our bedroom windows and trying to stay awake until it was time to go to bed. There was so much life left, sometimes you forget. There was so much you could go back and relive, but I wanted to believe the best was yet to come. I just couldn’t write about it yet.
The movies were starting up on the plane and so was the beverage service. There were no breaks on this trip, not until now. When I took my first drink it made me shudder as the gin hit my throat and floated to the top, but then I felt better and warm, I finished what I had to say.
On the screens, in the movies, I watched the scenes of the actors without any words. You can be whatever you want to be, good or bad, whatever you believe. And the moon was full, that first night in Amsterdam on the rooftop terrace, the highest I’d ever been in Amsterdam, but we hardly had any time for it. I walked to the edge to hear the church bells at 12, but we went back inside before the last one chimed. How much like a dream it all seemed.