Departure Lounge

It was as if he had arrived at the airport two hours earlier than he was supposed to, two hours earlier than it suggested on the airline ticket, and he had done so in order to avoid the anxiety of being late, but now, two hours after he had arrived, he was even more anxious, anxious that he had another two hours still to wait for his flight to be called.

It was as if the check-in desk wasn't open but he wanted to check his bags before he found somewhere to eat and something to eat, but he had to wait, and there were people in a queue snaking back from a desk that had no one behind it, although the sign above read Rio de Janeiro Flight BA283.

It was as if he joined the queue and kicked his bag along the floor, scuffing it, in unison with the others and then, as if by magic, a woman in a blue uniform appeared and started checking people's tickets and passports and smiled and pushed buttons so the bags were taken away.

It was as if he waited and finally it was his turn but the smile of the woman in the blue uniform seemed to disappear and he stumbled over words and stuttered in his obsequious desire to please her and after a while he thought of her as a stuck-up bitch, a Barbie dominatrix, but he said please and thank you about a million times and she gave him an aisle seat when he wanted window.

It was as if his bags were put on a conveyor belt but he'd forgotten to put a name and address tag on them and he tried to but the bag was now behind the desk and the woman in the blue uniform had attached a sticky label to it and as it disappeared through the black rubber portcullis he was sure the label read Budapest not Rio.

It was as if he thought to ask just to make sure but the woman in the blue uniform was dealing with another passenger and ignored his pleading face, and he decided that it would be okay - his bag would be okay - it would be fine, really.

It was as if he went in search of food and was shocked by the choice - there were burgers, falafels, sushi, fish and chips, salad bars, and sandwich shops, pubs and wine bars - there was too much food to choose from, but after the fourth circuit of the food hall he took the easy option and had a burger that was greasy and nearly inedible and he ate it in two mouthfuls and was barely able to swallow it.

It was as if he looked at the departure board and his flight was on time, at least that was something, and he had an hour to go, so he toured the shops and pretended to shop, and the shops sold mostly tat, and electronic tat at that, and he bought half a litre of vodka and a pack of luxury nuts and a book that was as thick as his thigh.

It was as if he sat on a seat in a bar, drank a pint of lager, and read the opening pages of the book until he heard his flight being called and he followed the signs to gate 25 along blue-carpeted tunnels and bright white passageways, along moving walkways with paintings of the future.

It was as if he sat again and read again and the flight was ready and he showed his boarding card to another woman identical to the first woman in the blue uniform, and he walked across a patch of runway and was shocked to see it covered in apple blossom.

It was as if he realised at the last moment that what he thought was apple blossom was tissue paper and he wondered how it got there and how it stayed there but he was caught up in the movement of fellow passengers as they boarded the plane.

It was as if he got on and was shown to his seat by another clone of the first woman in the blue uniform and he buckled his seat belt and then unbuckled it and took off his jacket and stowed it above his head and then re-buckled his seat belt.

It was as if he reached across the seats next to him to look out of the window but he could not see the tissue paper that looked like apple blossom and two passengers got on and took their seats next to him and they looked like newly-weds and they smiled a lot and he stared ahead.

It was as if a voice came over the intercom and said something that he didn't listen to and yet another clone of the woman in the blue uniform went through the safety drill and he puckered his lips as if blowing a whistle for assistance in a grey sea with mountainous waves as dark as the next world.

It was as if the plane taxied and then struggled into the air, and the engines roared like a bad-mood monster, and they were up in the air and food was brought around and over the intercom a voice asked him to identify himself and he did.

It was as if the clones of the woman in the blue uniform kept coming, multiplying before him, and this one put a foil tray with a cardboard lid on the fold-out mini table in front of him and said, "Your vegetarian meal, sir."

It was as if he did not say anything, he just stared and thought of all the carnivores in the world and that he was of them and he took off the cardboard lid and inside the foil tray was a piece of brie, some leaves that looked like basil, a slice of bread and a cherry tomato heart-shaped and overripe.

It was as if she had left him.

About the author:

Steve Finbow writes out of London, England. He has worked for the poet Allen Ginsberg, the writer Victor Bokris, the artist Richard Long. His fiction, essays, and short plays appear, or will appear, in Eyeshot, 3am Magazine, Yankee Pot Roast, uber, Locus Novus, InkPot, Dicey Brown, and The Guardian Online. He is currently working on a novel. (Yeah, right).