Return

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I follow the line of the day. In a cryostasis of microwaved food and a small screen, time slips past me in sleeping and waking. Another person returning. The endless haze of the middle eastern desert is soon a blue sky lapped by silent cloud. Soon a thick fog, that breaks as I awake to a spectrum of green fields, verdant and damp. Slate roofs, gardens, worn pitches, industrial estates, narrow grey roads, all right hand drive. No clay, no patched tin roofs or waterlogged plains anymore.

Soon the familiar narrative of an airport terminal, the chrome and glass obstacle course. In auto pilot I am drawn through it. Empty travellators usher me onward, vast deserted tunnels spiral past. I feel stationary, guided on through this glistening machine. I share a train with no one, a lift to myself. More polished floor, soft glowing gate signs, lines of seating, the pulse of a trolley bulb. Footsteps on their way across the world.

I climb escalators and crest a platform under the silent watch of a team of cleaners. In a flash in the terminal I look around for the end, for a full stop to this great arc. A token for the finish of a mighty passage, a trail across the planet. For my own journey, I search for a spiritual marker to acknowledge the end of something big and the beginning of something eternal. For the letting go. A ritual for a father. I listen out for the peel of a bell from the clifftops of Battambang, the tinkle of chimes from a monastery in Hue. The piercing mantras from the throats of monks across the peninsula. I listen for a choir of angels at my back as I step into the air and into the light. As I step into the end.

Soon another window seat. The same seat. I follow the line of the day, into the night. A wingtip blinks metronomically in the dark, counting the seconds for me. Keeping time. Or counting backwards? Undoing the last 6 months day by day as if nothing ever happened and I never left. Familiar accents, undeniable faces. Soon enough, that same arrivals hall I have passed through again and again. My watch hands are lost. I am on no time zone traveling in reverse as a red bulb beats like a pulse outside the window. Below in the blackness towns glow like magma. Hairline cracks in the earths crust.

Out there in that inconceivable vastness is that choir, heralding my return and all my decisions. Across the amber horizon is a spectrum from the last rays of some other day, another time. But out there also, nothing. Just me under the stars with what I have on my back, and only what makes me up in flesh and spirit. Only me at this great height. A flash of crystal ocean. A flash of bamboo jungle. A flash to those forest ruins rust coloured in the heat. All these images, frozen in my absence, hover in my eyes. A flash to a rugged hilltop. A flash to a smoggy street corner sitting low with a sweet coffee staring at a tangle of power lines. Kind eyes looking on. Hot sand and clay on my feet. A flash of an infinite landscape from another bus seat. A flash of warm sheets and steaming bowls. Another sleep, another meal. Flashes of Scotland’s low cloud, Glasgow’s rotundas in the rain. The same radio on, I sit at a window. A flash from the future, I hold a small warm body pressed to my shoulder. Small hands reaching out for the unknown. New eyes on this world, a new heart to fill. A new jewel in my soul.

A flash of everything. A flash of nothing. A stroboscope of emotions.

I follow the line of day, and it takes me home.

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