On airports, colour blindness and time alone

People laugh at my passion for airports. I visit them with pleasure for drop offs and pickups but prefer not to pass through to other places. Unless I have to. 

We drove out this morning to farewell my husband. He’s off to Bali with friends for ten days. Early enough and more so given we lose an hour to slip into daylight savings.

A six am start was actually a five am start in the old money. An overcast day so the light broke without any sun to be seen and modest temperatures, typical of spring, a strange even-handedness in the air despite the sense that winds would re-erupt soon enough once whatever change in store eventuated. 

I had thought I’d arrive home and go straight back to sleep. Equally, I thought I’d be wide awake, too awake to let sleep return and so it is. 

The airport is already a blur. Every time I visit some new reconstruction has affected the layout. The doors that opened and shut like a shark’s jaws have now been replaced by automatic pass through entrances and exits as at train stations. 

Before we left, as my husband slipped a light jumper over his head in readiness for the day and his trip, I found myself looking at his shoes on our bedroom floor. A row of Keens shoes, comfortable shoes that he prefers to buy in multiples. Not one pair but two.

They are well worn and much loved but not over-worn and the openings into which my husband slips his feet when empty now look like a choir of open mouths. The one squished together in a grin, another a full circle of astonishment, a third more a scream. 

A contrast to the bright white open bustle of the airport. 

A year ago, I bought a special pair of sunglasses for my husband’s birthday. Glasses that allow the colour blind to see colour. There are a series of you tube clips in the advertising site for Enchroma glasses for people who see colour for the first time and they sometimes weep. 

My husband was more restrained when on the evening of his birthday he first tried them out. These were sunglasses. He needed full sun to enjoy them.

Even the next day he seemed lacklustre in his enthusiasm, as was my grandson who tried on these glasses, too. 

My grandson is also colour blind. It runs in families, carried by the females but copped by the males.

A year later, this morning, my husband told me he had packed his Enchroma sunglasses and my heart sang a little song of joy to imagine the pleasure he might find in Bali when he sees the colours of that island more clearly than ever before.

And women must weep

This is how it goes. You spend at least seven days before each Friday night deciding on what to wear. You might borrow from your sisters, the ones who are closest in size. You might even spend a little of your hard-earned money on a new blouse, a fawn coloured thing out of synthetic silk so that it washes readily in the machine. It has tulip shaped sleeves and comes out at the waist before flaring over your hips.  

            The pleasure lies entirely in the anticipation. The event itself is always a disappointment, but you never tell yourself beforehand. Beforehand you tell yourself, tonight will be the night when you meet the one.

            I had heard from my friend which were the best places to visit, places where young men and women might meet for the first time to fall in love. Not quite the cattle sale of yesteryear. Women in the late seventies convinced themselves that they were as active in the manner of how they might meet a man as were the men, not like in my mother’s day, fifty years earlier, when men did the work and women were left to weep.  

            I drank too much. It gave me Dutch courage, the sort I needed to be bold. ‘Would you like to dance,’ I said to a man whose appearance reminded me of one of my older brothers, tall and high browed with a sarcastic look on his face that seemed so familiar as to be a comfort.

            The Anchor and Hope was filled that night, bodies jostling for space, and no room for serious dancing. Not that I could dance seriously, not the way we were taught to dance at school, the taller girl, me, taking on the role of the boy. I worried then that I would have trouble allowing my partner to lead, but in the modern style of dance I need not have worried.

            When he asked me to come home with him it was easy to slip away from the girl friend with whom I had arrived.

            ‘I wouldn’t go if I were you,’ she whispered, as I took my leave.  

            ‘Don’t worry,’ I said. ‘I’ll be fine.  

            The man of the high brow lived nearby in an upstairs flat, which we entered through a gate coded with numbers only he knew. I could not catch them as he punched in the code. No matter. I was too drunk and jolly to imagine I might be anything but safe.

            There was a huge dog in the garden. It wagged its tail as we spun through the gate. We climbed upwards on stolid grey wooden stairs, weathered with age, as if we were entering a tower.

            The man shared this place with a friend who was already at home and the three of us went into the kitchen for a final drink. By now I was ravenous. They offered cheese and stale biscuits, which helped sop up the wine. 

            You might not believe this, but as far as I know nothing happened in bed that night. We three were all too drunk. I say we, because the three of us flopped onto the bed together and in the morning when I woke and sunlight streamed through the windows, when I had lost all my Dutch courage and all that remained was a thumping head, I climbed over the man lying on my left nearest the door and tugged my skirt back over my knickers; my blouse over the top of my bra; my shoes on my feet and asked to take my leave. The man of the high brow led me past the dog down the stairs and out onto the street, where I waited at the tram stop and contemplated my fate.  

            If I were to keep this up, I too might weep.

My Virginia Woolf impersonation, with thanks to Henry Handel Richardson for the title.