An airport is the only place where it’s socially acceptable to drink at seven o’clock on a Tuesday morning. Not that I usually drink anywhere at seven o’clock on any morning, or ever really. My yearly alcohol consumption comes in somewhere around the suggested limit for one week, but this feels like a good place to do something I wouldn’t normally do. Besides, it’s easy to be someone else in an airport. Or to be no-one at all.
Airports are where the most intense of emotions happen, with all the leaving and arriving, tearing apart and reuniting. They’re the ultimate transitory environment because everyone and everything is constantly moving. There’s a charge in the air from all the spilled experience, from the juxtaposition of order and chaos. The façade of organisation wraps thin around the buzz of pure humanness, people rushing and crying and searching and escaping. It’s the sense of contradiction that makes an airport so enticing and that makes ordering a double vodka at seven o’clock on a Tuesday morning feel like an entirely appropriate thing to do.
I’m not sure exactly what led me to this point, to where I genuinely consider everything that came before to be my past life. It would be easy to blame the drugs, because that’s what people do, as if drugs themselves are the problem, rather than everything that makes them feel like a solution. I lost a lot of weight and I lost a lot of time and I guess I should regret the white knuckle rides and white lines. But it didn’t almost kill me and there’s no big story of tumultuous recovery, just a conscious change of circumstances. It really was that easy to leave it all behind, but I never had much belief in solutions anyway. Pale ghost, old friend, absent lover. Long gone are the days when I would move mountains for a fleeting high.
It would be almost as easy to blame her, my precious Judas, my betrayer. If I’d kept a list of every lie that slithered from her lips, I’d have run out of ink long before she ran out of dishonesty. But there were no curses cast at midnight nor wrists burned over ritual flame, only memories bound in white thread by a south-facing window at daybreak. She may have armed her horsemen, but no-one burns bridges like I do, so I raise a silent toast to her apocalypse and hope she spends her thirty pieces of silver on something that matters more to her than I ever did. There never was blood on my hands and Neptune’s oceans still run clean.
It could have been the time I almost drowned, or at least almost tried to, that finally made me realise something needed to change. I did not see it coming. I’d walked an unfamiliar path and sought out shade and soft fallen needles. Then I’d waded into deep, clear water with stones and glass worn smooth, blue to pull me through and under. All I could think about was how many times I had counted measured moments and well-rehearsed movements and how much easier it would be to finally relinquish control. I swam until my arms ached, but just when I was ready to let stillness take me, I realised I had left something behind, or let it go, or lost myself. I made it back to shore in seconds, or eons, elated and shivering.
In the time between feeling the pull of the unknown and actually buying the ticket, there was him, my Janus, my god of beginnings and endings and transitions, with always the best of intentions and the worst of actions. I had already decided to leave and although I never meant to leave him specifically, he simply became part of what I needed to walk away from. I could always walk away like an expert, a professional, as if it was what I was meant for. I’ve just never walked quite this far before. But anyway.
I remember standing in his studio with the threadbare carpet and the couch with stuffing herniating through worn patches in the cushions, assessing the potential of the situation as an escape route from everything else, as I did with most unexplored places back then. We were talking about something unimportant, I don’t know what, although I do recall looking out of the window through our reflection at the empty sky as he moved closer behind me and his arms slid around my waist. There was no space between us so we filled the air with more meaningless words, delaying the inevitable.
He rested his chin on my shoulder, his breath on my neck, his hair against my cheek, as we fell into silence. I turned to face him and drifted into a moment where it felt like everything could change, but it was better that it didn’t because no matter what happened next, it would never live up to the expectation held in those few seconds when neither of us could look away. I couldn’t shake the feeling that maybe my life hadn’t really begun yet, but it was, at the same time, ending second by second and needed to be held on to, gripped tightly with all my senses.
And now, as I walk towards whatever comes next, surrounded by shuffling strangers, a lullaby from childhood floods my mind.
Silence your sirens and quiet your fears
Open your eyes again, empty of tears
Adrift on the water, the sun on your face
A breath of salt air and a soul full of grace
Afloat on the peace of all you hold dear
Nothing that harms you can reach you out here
When it’s too dark to see and it’s too cold to roam
May love wrap you warmly and welcome you home
I finally understand that home is not a place nor a person. It is not a curated collection of memories and missives. Home is a state of motion, a flickering static of potential as a plane lifts off at sunrise. Home is simply myself, anywhere, everywhere, heartbled and soulrisen.