London, 9th December
Another airport. Another long wait in a flimsy gangway, too narrow to let more than one person through at a time: bottleneck; guaranteed suffocation. Jaded, Mélodie takes her place in the queue.
The crowd of transatlantic flight 316 from Vancouver seamlessly splits into two groups upon arrival: the solo travelers and the others. She’s part of the former category. The big herd disembarks, one by one. Isolated in her bubble by her headphones, Mélodie observes the small groups of people around her, seething with excitement and babbling non-stop.
It’s funny how the fact of being alone can change someone…
She is tired, her body is in pieces, her head both empty and cluttered – but relieved.
… London. Back to square one.
Absorbed by her last minute change of destination, she hasn’t slept for a moment during the fifteen hour flight. Instead, she happily threw herself at the plane’s miniature world, drinking a dozen mini- wine bottles while gobbling mini-snacks, her eyes glued to the mini-screen.
Numbed by her tiredness, clouded by the alcohol, she dwells on her last days in Vancouver.
Everything had gone so well… My very first multimedia exhibition, a complete success! I was so happy! How could that stranger take the liberty to start shouting like that, to shame me in front of everybody?? Twisted old hippie…
I still cannot believe that incident shook me to the point of changing my return flight to come here, to London, instead of going home to Amsterdam. Another one of my impulsive decisions… Well, it certainly won’t be the last.
This thought brings an oblivious smile on her lips while her body walks on, turned on automatic pilot. Hindered by the clumsy crowd’s awkward rhythm, she slowly drags herself toward the exit, her luggage in tow. Three bags on wheels and a handbag across her chest: she is completely encumbered.
QUICK… A CIGARETTE!!!
She does not notice the covert looks she’s attracting, the spying eyes either envying her or lusting after her on the sly. Her disheveled caramel hair and her tired face without makeup do not obscure her natural beauty. The old pair of dirty jeans and the oversized jumper that she is wearing do not prevent the seductive shape of her body from shining through.
Wild, unruly, she is a queen without a kingdom.
Wasting a colossal amount of energy through this exit process, she still manages to get out of the airport before anybody else. Scarcely outside, she slumps down heavily on a trolley ramp’s metallic border.
She carelessly lets her luggage collapse randomly around her: her attention is entirely focused on extracting a pack of cigarettes from her brand new ‘duty-free’ carton. Finally puffing, she exhales several clouds of blue smoke, satisfied at last. Unfortunately, this respite is soon cut short by a nasty little voice in her head; a little voice she knows well.
You came back to London to find out, didn’t you? But you will never have the nerve… Like always, you gave yourself the opportunity, but you won’t have the means, nor the guts.
She looks away, allowing the unwelcomed voice to chatter on: she knows that it will soon tire, if she ignores it thoroughly. A few cigarettes later, she stands up with a little cough: she has recovered her husky voice.
Time to find Heathrow airport’s closest information desk… It’s not even 9 am yet; I’m going to wait ‘til twelve to try to make a call. Let’s hope my mates are here!
Her mobile’s battery is flat since nearly two days; she finds a socket inside, plugs her phone and collapses against the nearby wall, closing her eyes.
What’s the rush…
At twelve on the dot, her composure transforms from lethargic to overexcited in the bat of an eye. A big smile beams on her face as she dials ten digits, thinking of her old friend from college, Patrick.
Her mobile gives out an unpleasant sound and connects her to his voicemail. She unsuccessfully tries Pete, then Oliver, then Alex…
Frustrated, she decides to call her best friend Marie, in Amsterdam.
I will try the others again afterwards. Marie should be at work: I know she will answer.
It’s a winner: Marie picks up after just three rings. She barks back at her:
« Yeah, Marie speaking. Who is this? »
« Hello! It’s Mélodie! »
A few colorful phrases later, Mélodie has shared the jist of her last Canadian adventure and her unexpected arrival in London with her friend, both of them laughing at her antics. But she suddenly becomes serious, as she starts telling her about… The Incident.
« My demo was just finished and I was starting on the Q&A – there were so many people around my installation, I was so happy! That’s when this woman arrived: she was coming from a nearby stand: “Channeling human energy” – an assembly including a giant screen connected to individual little boxes containing sensors. Allegedly, using the people’s energy picked up by the sensors, their software could decrypt their immaterial essence, and project it on the screen. It showed moving shapes of colors – it probably simply was a projection of wide-angled fractals. A hippie hoax, nothing more…»
« Seeing people’s souls?? Absolute nonsense! »
« … She presented me with one of their little sensor-boxes and asked me to try it out. I knew it was bullshit, but it was my first exhibition and obviously, I wanted to make a good impression in the collective, so… I did what she said and put my hand in it. »
« And…?? »
« …And the screen went haywire: there was an explosion of lights and sounds and their installation short-circuited. And the girl, well… She ran away screaming: « You are not human!! You cannot be human!! ». The people who had come to my stand to ask questions after my show were appalled. It was terrible. »
Marie goes into a frantic verbal riot, flinging an impressive string of insults at the unknown stranger. Mélodie lets her go on with her rant for a while, then softly interrupts her flow:
« Indeed… Anyway, I am really happy to have been able to tell you about it. It takes a big weight off my chest. »
« Darling, don’t let such idiots affect you: clearly, they’re the ones who have issues – and big ones! Let it go – and let’s talk about something else. Indeed, I’m happy I finally got you on the line, I wanted to ask you something: what are you doing for New Year’s Eve? »
« Well, I’m literally just back, I’ve got no plans yet. Why, what are you up to? »
« I’m off on holidays in Indonesia!! Why don’t you come with me?? I’ve already made reservations for a gorgeous holiday house in Bali, you only need to pay for your flight! It would be awesome if you came with! »
Mélodie closes her eyes and smiles, picturing her friend’s face, full of anticipation, at the end of the line (Marie is completely mad, but I love her so much!!).
« I don’t know, I need to check how much is left in my account… But Bali is cheap, it might be doable! I’ll let you know as soon as I can. But first, I need to find a place to sleep here tonight… »
« Not to worry: you know everyone and their dog in London… Hey, did you know that Angelo’s got a new squat? Give him a call! »
They say their goodbyes and Mélodie hangs up, grinning. She feels better: this outburst really did her good. She dials up a new number on her phone. This time the call goes through.
« Angelo ? Hi baby, it’s Mélodie ! »
In just a few minutes, Mélodie has sorted out her accommodation for the next few days. She scribbles down an address on her blotched traveling notepad and straightens herself out, beaming: direction the Tube, London underground.
She knows the road will be long until Brixton, South Terminal. She is anxious to arrive but she doesn’t worry too much: a new chapter is just beginning.
It’s all she ever wanted.