Twilight Departures: Silent Anonymities In Transit.
Softly behind me a door slides open and shut. People file through white-lit avenues of glass and steel.
Hard seats in rows in the departure lounge, and a million anonymities in transit.
Trans-border and faceless, in the fading light of sunset I catch my reflection, and those of all those millions, dancing in suspension upon glass surfaces: planes of existence like transparent films, and between them worlds of floating imageries.
An unusual urgency on the tannoy catches my attention: baggage left unattended shall be removed and destroyed due to the heightened security status.
Only yesterday in Terminal Three, a man with a rifle shot several people. One died lying on the wrong side of a police cordon, left to bleed where the paramedics were not allowed to go. Behind me, the door softly slides, a seamless gateway.
I rest the paper on my knee as a headline absorbs my thoughts. TSA officer Hernandez bled for 33 minutes at scene. Nearby, cabin crews and passengers gather in hushed assembly at a bar where bright lights flicker in a mirror behind a line of shot dispensers.
A whiskey lambency fills that partitioned corner of the world with an after-hours feel, a sweet hunger for touch, an unexpected and nameless homecoming.
Dressed for business, the crews are sharp and tight, all heels and peaked caps, glances and smiles, a gypsy camaraderie; but the passengers are the ones passing through, blinkered and directed in the temporary trauma of movement.
Conversations pass me by, laughter is raised like a cup at a feast, as a young steward scores points at the expense of a traveler: “Beachmore, I think his name was, he called Charlene over and said ‘I think I’ve got something vibrating in my bag…’ You should have seen the look on her face! ‘What is it?’ she says. ‘Dare say it’s my toothbrush,’ he says. Everyone just laughed…” Why did that man die?
Outside the bar’s homely halo, in the halogen limbo of departures, a woman sits alone on the hard steel seats.
The space between us is no more than an aisle’s width, but I cannot say when she appeared: she is just there, as nitid as a moonbeam in the gathering darkness outside the terminal building. She moves in her seat, crosses and uncrosses her legs, covers her lap with a jumper.
She meets me briefly across the carpeted distance, dark eyes nestled in auburn, a wisp of a smile; her satin dress dissolves the light like water, and I am a man overboard, un-anchored in a shifting ocean of teal blue waves, the cross-hatched moquette a net that enmeshes us both like minnows.
I catch her scent in the napped silence of the lounge, know her voice even though I will never know her speak.
In the sun-flare suddenness of her apparition, I am consumed. I watch, exhilarated, as this hall of mirrors, and with it my own reflection, explodes into a thousand shards, a thousand unraveled storylines.
I want her in focus in the lens of a camera. I turn and turn the ring, but focus eludes me.
The fuzziness pains my eye, but the eye, naked against the viewfinder, cannot be detached. I am unable to lower the camera and the pain is torment. I want desperately to close it, rest it, allow it to re-moisten; and still I cannot find focus.
With a violent lunge, she rams a wedged stone between the body of the camera and the lens, and I am falling, falling backwards over a glass wall into a cavernous night-filled hall.
Below me, carousels, suitcases, rucksacks, trolleys, and in the middle of the hall a body bleeding out on the floor in the muted indifference of people waiting.
A voice utters words in a soft tannoy dulcet: last call for flight US 716 to Philadelphia. Could all remaining passengers proceed to the gate? Pressed, I open my eyes to a sudden fall from grace, gather my jacket and bag, leave my paper on the seat. My chin is damp.
Again the door behind me slides open and shut. The cabin attendants at the bar have gone, other silent anonymities have taken their place. The woman opposite me seems older now, and does not appear to have noticed me.
I make my way towards those jaw-like doors, and presently that muffled space between worlds is as if it had never been.
Robert Norris has always written as a pilgrim writes: on the knee, in a battered notebook, with a stub of a pencil (or a favorite pen), for no purpose other than to be present at the moment something breaks through the dross, curious to see where the spider-hand will crawl to next. The pilgrim has now understood that there is more to life than private experience, that maybe there is something afoot in the world, and we are all called to stand and be heard; that working in the twilight of one’s inner workshop, only to lock the door at the end of the day and return to the ‘other life’, is no longer an option. The themes that inspire him are memory, perception and the creative act. You can find more on Robert on his website.