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06. In the middle earth

15th April

I leave home early in the morning. It’s Easter Eve.
London is still enfolded in its infinite chilly shades of grey.
Sleepy buses collect few workers from the roads, letting the pavements be a temporary reign for some bowed drunks, fragile remains of the previous Friday night.
I love the City at this time of day.
Shutters down, desolated streets and a staid quietness seem ideograms of a language that London is using to make me feel at ease. Reminders of the countryside comforting calm I left behind, in Italy. Signs of a momentary and immobile benevolence before humanity starts to devour time and space, once again.

The 341 bus drops me off at Manor House. From here, the Piccadilly line train slowly drags me to Heathrow Airport, on the West side of the City.
The first segment of the route is underground; down here it’s as if night had fallen again.
The slightly curved window in front of me shows an oblong reflection of my face, made even more dramatic by the surgical-like light of some linear luminaires above my head.
It’s cold.
From the mirroring glass, I glimpse my thin multilayered clothes.
A brown trench, then scarf, long-sleeved shirt and T-shirt in various green nuances – a perfectly camouflaged outfit in line with the Vietnamese environment, I think – blue jeans and trainers to stand the climate rush between the three different continents I would have crossed during the day; from 10 to 35 degrees in 24 hours.

I share the coach with some unfamiliar faces; at each stop, they repeatedly vanish to let new ones fill the empty spaces.
Mostly women, whose body and thoughts seem wrapped in a discreet and composed silence, cracked only by the rowdy vivacity of a couple of children. The two siblings are going to be part of my almost an hour and a half long journey, seeing the several pieces of luggage that their parents are carrying with them.
The train emerges from the ground at Earl’s Court. The sky is clean but still livid; the City is rolling away.
I cannot help feeling my meteoropathic and melancholic mood come closer.

Heathrow. Terminal 4.
I reach it at around 9.00am. I’ve never flown from this airport before.
Here, I completely lack the confidence that usually accompanies me when flying from Stansted instead, which I know like the back of my hand.
Heathrow is the biggest London Airport; the thought makes me feel uncomfortable even though I like taking the unknown as a challenge.
Then, other thoughts accidentally start to bounce around the walls of my memories, fading the moment; a remote sense of anxiety leaves my heart and grasps the stomach.
Yes, I’ve never flown from Heathrow before. However, I’ve been here once.

It was last year, in May. Terminal 5. I accompanied the man I loved. He had flown home, to the opposite side of the world.
I met him only one more time after that day. Without knowing it, that would have been the prelude to a goodbye.

I come back to the present and scan the space in search of my targets: Security control; Aeroflot check-in desks; the scales, just to play with the luggage, I love weighing it.
I’ve planned to arrive much in advance and have plenty of time to explore the new territory, a middle earth where to spend three hours before the flight call.
The main hall of the terminal is almost empty, therefore I manage to pass through all the controls quite quickly. In 40 minutes I’m on the other side of the barricade.
Goodbye suitcase, I hope to see you again.

A glimpse at the departures board.
Abu Dhabi, Jeddah, Kuala Lumpur. Moscow.
Doha, Kuwait, Mumbai, Riyadh, Seoul. Ho Chi Min City.
Asia and the Middle East gathered on a screen.
An airport is a place where, for a moment, you believe you can touch Utopia with the tips of your fingers.

I’ve got time.
I’ve got books. I’ve got games and music. I’ve got my posts to write.
However, my minutes pass just looking at numbers, symbols, destinations, people.
Stories in motion.
I check the black screen, waiting for the gate to be revealed, while a
Please wait… blinks again and again.
A group of Russian teenagers stop in front of me. They are checking for the flight to Moscow too, I assume.
Boys and girls presumably of fourteen or even less, and most likely on their way home after a study experience in London.
Please wait…
One of them embarks on a clumsy courting dance to catch the attention of a female mate with pimples and brown pigtails.
Please wait…
The boy repeatedly touches her shoulder, and each time he hides from her sight.
Please wait…
The game goes on for a while. She seems distant, not a smile. However, she doesn’t move, she doesn’t complain. It has to be her naive way to approve the boy’s attention.
Please wait…

Then, the thought of him. Of when we got lost.
Please. Wait…

Sometimes I wish I was the girl with pimples and pigtails, to start life again.

The gate is up.
See you on the other side of the world.

Take a look at the whole Vietnam Photo Book here

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