Zach Beauvais

shows Caledonian Road tube station

At least once, those bags contained pretty much everything I owned.

Written by Zach Beauvais

May 3, 2019

A friend of mine posted a photo:

his bags, badly lit by soul-sucking strip lights of airports, train stations, and the night bus. It looks dreadful, and he’s jetlagged to shit, no doubt. He’s knackered, gone through customs, queues, ticketing and had eaten God-knows food instead of normal food.

Part of me longs to feel that kind of unclean where you know you’ve walked the dust and grime of one continent over to a crowded corner inside an aluminium tube; and sat mostly still for 9 hours, only to stand, walk, stand, sweat, stand, walk, carry, and finally dribble terrible coffee down yourself. The only think you can focus on, now, is that little passport, and those few tickets. I’ve made that journey many times.

At least once, those bags contained pretty much everything I owned.

British airport from 2003 – looking dismal and busy
A British airport taken a month before I arrived by someone I’ve never met – flickr CC-BY Shuichi KODAMA

The idea of planning a 2-hour trip with a baby gives me a fluttering heart and makes my perpetual headache (every day for a year now – that might be a PB) kick things up a notch. All I want is to switch off after my day’s work and baby-tending has been done.

But, the ember of my 18-year-old self doesn’t seem to have been snuffed out.

I would trade almost anything I own to battle jetlag and fight my eyes to stay open under the green lamps in a place designed to feel unfriendly; knowing that tomorrow would be vastly different from the terminus – and would be an ocean’s breadth from today. To know these few bags are all the possessions I need to fend for.

It’s totally insane. I wouldn’t want to plan such a trip; and I hate flying more than anything – well: it’s tied with fascism, baby-boomer paternalism, and the clamshell packaging you need to cut repeatedly, and it cuts you anyway. I’ve got a lot of stuff to do, and very little of my own mind left after I do it; and that’s been my reality for a year without much pause.

But, I’d trade my very soul to wake up again at Gatwick’s Terminal again that morning. I possessed a single, well oversized, expedition-grade backpack; a duffel bag designed for that backpack to live in, but had been co opted it for some clothes, books, and a cheap cloth rabbit I’d rescued from my 4th ever Christmas stocking. Alongside these two bags, I had a corrugated, plastic sump (with lid cable-tied together) that housed a drum and a blanket.

I’d been awake since, I don’t know, more than this many. I’d not eaten.

Because, I was so very alive. I was overrun by joy and excitement.

My wife (minus 2 weeks) would see me in a minute, and tomorrow I’d awake to England. And in only a few tomorrows; I’d awake to my wife, England, London, and everything a possible future (I mean, I was about to do a degree in applied sociolinguistics – it doesn’t really tie you down).

When did excitement start to feel exactly the same as panic?

Cover image CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, jameswberk

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