I am shaving while characters rush in and out. It’s seven in the morning, and I have spent over thirty hours travelling.
Here I am in Milan Airport. In the men’s bathroom/restroom/toilet/euphemism.
Since disembarking all is going well. Through a large window I’ve already seen the jagged and snowy Alps.
A sludgy sea of shuffling people at passport control. I hear someone say, ‘Australians come this way.’ My eyes dart towards the voice and about three minutes later I exit via the non-EU, or third countries lane and charge the world’s biggest baggage carousel. It’s the size and shape of the Monza formula one circuit.
Luggage is dropping onto the belt and shortly after, thud. My bag! And it’s not damaged.
I now brush my teeth, and this feels fantastic too. Rinse, spit, go!
As always, early morning is the best time to land in a new country so the day and your adventure can begin together. While airports can be viewed merely as venues for transition, right now all about me is invested with wonder. Stretching out with golden expectation, our Italian trip’s in front of us.
I remain alert to the terminal’s minor dangers but my surging notion is that strangers are kind. My fears submerge. With the rush of passengers, I sense the richness of universal narratives. How many stories have compelled them to this airport?
I’m enjoying the exhilaration of arrival.
Later tonight, in our Lake Como apartment, the toll for my voyage will be extracted, brutally. When I collapse at dusk, the violence of modern travel will come for me with little mercy. Waking abruptly at 3am I’ll find myself in the bathroom checking the weather back home, just stopping before I open my work email.
But in the terminal my mind buzzes, and I compare everything: the Italian and English languages, the café menu, the manufacturer of the cistern. Look, there’s a bidet! These are enchanted curios in a bold, bright world.
Claire suggested our reunion for Exit 5 of Terminal 2. Given my first hour in Italy had gone well, I’m now over-confident as I tow my case to the meeting spot. See! Easy!
Outside’s brisk in Milano. There’s a stream of pedestrian traffic, and my eye’s especially caught by a white-suited man. He also wears white shoes. I think of Dean Martin. Carrying himself past the forecourt with relaxed confidence I wonder if he’s meeting someone here, too?
To my west is a bus stop and a constant line of vehicles siphons through it. The success of my morning makes me certain that from here Claire will emerge. A dot at first. Then her familiar brisk gait followed by her hair and face, and finally the smile I know so very well. I haven’t seen her since Friday evening. I’m sure she’s on the bus that’s just paused. I peer across the traffic. Where is she?
And then suddenly, Claire’s sunny voice is behind me, coming from the terminal.