Stray Dog Days
“Sooner or later we all discover that the important moments in life are not the advertised ones, not the birthdays, the graduations, the weddings, not the great goals achieved. The real milestones are less prepossessing. They come to the door…unannounced, stray dogs that amble in, sniff around a bit and simply never leave. Our lives are measured by these.” Susan B Anthony
As I run across Terminal 3 at Heathrow, my phone bleeps and my heart flutters. I dig it from my pocket, read the message, feel my head spin a little and think about the last six months and how many times I have run across airports with my phone bleeping like a Sputnik and my heart in my mouth…
It’s bitterly cold. The night is studded with icy crystals and my fingers are numb inside my gloves. From the taxi I watch the snow fields and fallow ground slide past as we drive to a tiny airport on the Slovak boarder. My phone is buried in layers of clothing. I can feel it vibrating away and with frozen fingers I dig it out, read the message, which melts my heart and spins my head, and try to craft a reply. The night is glazed with a sheen of ice yet my heart is on fire.
Into the airport. Harsh lights bleach my skin and remind me that I have had but a few hours sleep. Sleepily check-in, slip through the formalities and buy a greasy bar of chocolate from the vending machine at the gate. The departure lounge is deserted apart from another couple who look ill at ease with each other. They are drinking something foul smelling and highly alcoholic from an ancient flask. They seem on the verge of some great tragedy and I can see despair and weariness surrounding them. Every time my phone beeps they look daggers at me and I have to stifle a grin.
I am writing a love letter in twenty word instalments and for them it seems like nineteen words too many.
A few days later, Ataturk Airport, I am watching the sun rise. It is a beautiful kaleidoscope of red, magentas and purple I feel an aching to share this with my lover. I reach for my phone, and in short bursts write: ‘wanted to tell you how the sun rose on my world today and how I wanted to capture it for you; how the lights across the harbour last night, in Asia (in Asia!!!!) blinked out your name before I went to bed and how I woke up cuddling the pillow and wondering why it smelt of fabric conditioner and not of you…’
I sit and wait. Time passes. The sun climbs in the sky. My colleague shakes his head wearily and asks, ‘How is your Sputnik Sweetheart? Still making you weak at the knees?’ I blush a little and tell him I need to get to a country where my phone can receive her messages.
And now it’s a drowsy Sunday afternoon and I am at Schipol Airport. I am bored, lonely, tired and depressed and the yellow colour scheme makes me feel sick. I find a corner to hide in and hang my head in my hands. I want to be anywhere else but here. I feel emotionally denuded and I am so lost in my melancholia that at first I don’t notice my phone beeping in my pocket. I take it out, read the message, feel the layers of depression fade away to a subtle ache which always accompanies me to Holland and write:
‘Thanks, needed that, was loosing it a little here…’
A few seconds later more beeps:
‘Call me when you get home…pain will pass’
And then I run for my flight, giggling at the tourists buying porn and tulips and know that the world is still turning and that someone in this world understands my pain today.
A few days later I am in Arlanda airport with another colleague. We get off the plane, I turn on the phone and up pops a message:
‘Got the job in Chocolate City…How do flights look for you?’
I drop my bags, hug my colleague, who has no idea what is happening, and run to the nearest bar. The sun has only just risen and there is no champagne to be had so we toast the day with beer. Later, I hear my colleague’s report about our trip:
“Well, travelling with him is never dull but you wouldn’t like to come between him and his phone…”
Another cold night, just south of the Artic Circle and we are standing in a field watching our breath freeze and the police move a dead moose from the road. The forest is eerily quiet and the faint flicker of the morthern lights paints shadows on the frozen snow. Everything is still and calm but I am not too worried about missing the flight from the frozen little airfield which is still a hundred miles distant. When my phone beeps the silence is shattered and serenity seems to crumble around us. My colleague shrugs his shoulders and offers a slight grin, ‘Even in the dead of night, off the edge of the map, in a forest, your Sputnik Sweetheart is thinking of you.’
I dash out a brief story about the dead moose and imagine that somewhere in California this will be read with a mixture of worry and incredulity.
A few seconds later, beep beep beep:
‘A real moose or a chocolate one?’
And as my colleague wanders back to the car in disgust at me destroying such a pristine night I sit on a frozen tree trunk and deconstruct my life and soul into twenty words bursts. Later I will download my received messages to my laptop and piece together a love-letter of such heart-breaking beauty that I will carry around with me for months to come.
The next day I am sitting in an opulent bar in a crumbling portside city killing time before we leave for the airport. Around me the good and gracious of Genova wheel and deal. Ladies, of a certain age, perch on the bar smoking filterless cigarettes, portly gentlemen in pin-striped suits huddle behind the financial pages of the paper and plot the movements of their stocks. I sip my bottle of sparkling water (pretending it is champagne) and reach for my phone:
‘I see you in every surface today. Why are you not here with me now?’
And I wait.
My colleague arrives, orders wine, lights a cigarette.
My phone remains mute. I sigh, and write.
‘How do I tell you how much I miss you right now?’
We sit and watch the world go by. I drink, my colleague smokes. A business acquaintance arrives, we do a deal, contracts are signed and yet my phone remains mute. I drink some more water, send some more messages and realise that half the day has gone by in this bar and we should go to the airport.
“Have you upset Sputnik Sweetheart?” asks my colleague, “as your phone has been remarkably quiet today.”
“It’s Italy,” I tell him moodily, “I can’t get her messages here,” and a few hours later we are in Germany.
After a blur of activity we are sitting kicking our heels in the lounge at Munich airport. It’s been an extraordinary trip but now the airport is busy and everyone wants to be elsewhere â€” businessmen want to be home with their wives, young couples want to be in some romantic hotel sipping wine and mothers, with young babies, want to be anywhere else, preferably with a large gin and tonic in their hands. I have a beer in one hand and my phone in the other.
‘What are you doing right now?’
‘Watching Germans and planning a life with you.’
‘A lifetime of happiness and serenity?’
And then I am weary, and forlorn and running across airports in Washington, Sacramento, San Francisco, Utah and Las Vegas and my phone is beeping out the marginalia of life whilst I try to not loose the plot with stray bags, missed connections, broken computers and far too much luggage.
Another couple of flights, some sleep and a few beers and I am in Spain, banging my phone against the wall, and then Helsinki Airport finally heading home. Helsinki, as ever, is beautiful. There is some other worldness about the city and the clean fresh air and imposing architecture almost convince me that I am on the edge of the known universe. My phone beeps as we rush for the gate:
‘Will you take me to Helsinki one day?’
‘And everywhere else…’
‘As your wife?’
‘Yes. Without question…’
I collect my bags, clear immigration and switch on my phone. It remains mute. I walk out of SFO airport and into the sun. I sit on the curb close my eyes. Around me people are rushing for flights, romances are ending and beginning, good byes are being said, chaos ensues and yet I am serenely calm. The sun warms me almost as much as finally being still. Time passes and I let my happiness unfold. I have worked hard for this moment and I am going to capture it forever so that when I am old and grey I can take it out, polish it and wonder at the life I lived in 2006.
When my phone beeps I pull it from my pocket.
‘Where are you?’
Five minutes pass.
Beep Beep Beep…
‘Turn around, silly boy.’
And as I turn around, and rush into my Sputnik Sweetheart’s arms, my phone gives one final beep and the battery dies.
Philip Blazdell was born too late into an uncaring world but has not let this hold him back. Voted best dressed man of 1932, able to sing the entire works of Gilbert and Sullivan without becoming tearful or disorientated, champion swords-man, poet, collector of Somalian erotica and maker of fabulous Yorkshire Puddings, Philip divides his time between Oxfordshire and Maryland. His first thought each morning is, ‘now where did I put my phone,’ and this is closely followed by, ‘and where on earth am I?’ He still doesn’t have a web page and only occasionally answers emails. He has contributed close to 100 articles to Bootsnall but much prefers writing love letters to his Beautiful Wife To Be these days. (Rumour has it that she would much prefer him to go back to writing travel articles and give her poor post man a break…)
If you absolutely have to contact Philip (and if you not a mad Netherlander, psychotic Canadian or want some CDs back that he borrowed from you years ago) then he can be contacted at: nihon_news at yahoo dot com. For the record the most text messages he sent in a month was 644 and the longest phone call he ever made was just over 11 hours.