AMS to London City. The return part of a round trip journey.
Seven years ago, I was on a westbound plane, about to undergo the sacramental — alchemical — transformation from woman to wife. Yesterday, I woke up before the sun in a London hotel room, alarm blaring on a colicky phone that had, twelve hours prior, self-destructed upon my arrival at Heathrow from LAX.
Why. Why did I feel a little bit bad? Was it the jetlag; the concerns left untabled and questions left unresolved? Was it the seven-year itch on a phantom limb — a feeling trying to be had in a place that simply didn’t exist?
Wake up, Mouse. Shower. Put on your glasses. Pick a dress; a suit is probably Way Too Much. Call housekeeping; ask for an iron. You forgot to send out clothes to be pressed last night. Tights — yes, tights, probably — and heels.
Hair down or up? Down.
Glasses. Where are your glasses? Don’t forget lipstick; quick; the driver is buzzing.
The routine was too familiar. Then drive. Takeoff. London City to Amsterdam.
There have been so many airports in seven years, but only occasional pangs of homesickness, usually at importune; unexpected times. Moments when “home” didn’t make sense.
For example, when I was married, I had a set of Villeroy & Boch stainless-steel cutlery that we only used when we had company. Not for any particular reason, mind you, but we had registered for it, and someone had purchased it for us, but we also quite liked the flatware we already had. The Villeroy & Boch set was service for 12, and it made sense at the time to keep it boxed and trot it out for dinner parties, since polishing the silverware was a cumbersome task not undertaken for anyone but my mother-in-law.
In my divorce, I lost Quite a Lot: the dogs, the car, the furniture. The dishes I’d had since my university days. But I managed to keep that set of cutlery. I did love it — the pieces were unfussy and had heft. And when I moved out and was on permanent travel, that was virtually all I owned in terms of domestic ware — save for a red Kitchen Aid mixer that had come out of its box perhaps twice in ten years (a gift from an ex-boyfriend, back when I actually cooked), and one really nice Calphalon pot (which Cheating Bill subsequently ruined in the dishwasher).
When out on the road for long enough, one longed for stability. I had none. Andrew had moved out of our Tribeca apartment that previous June; my things were in storage. And I came to beg to be reunited with my forks and spoons; speaking in waspy synechdoche — that miniscule part of the domestic experience representing the whole of my home.
Meanwhile, back in present-day London, as I walked through the terminal at LCY, I messaged a friend: I want to go home.
You can come home when you finish the work you need to do.
In reality, I didn’t want to go home at all — I had made a home away from home in London as much as I had a home any place else. I had friends; dinners to go to and parties to attend; I met up with running buddies and I belonged to a gym.
What I wanted to go back to the feeling of the Beginning — to how I felt when I didn’t know what the End was like. So when could I come home? When I finished the work that I needed to do. I supposed that I would feel different, then. It would be a new sacrament; a different alchemy.
Regardless of that outdated metaphysical longing, as I was eating my cereal this morning, it struck me that — all of the heavy and serious stuff notwithstanding — I had actually begun to miss my spoons — the cutlery; the stainless steel eating implements in my kitchen drawer.
And also, it occurred to me that I was jetlagged and a little bit mad.