Departure Gate

Written 2017. Most people don’t understand what this is about. If you have no attention span or analytical mind then you won’t… the clues are all there. It was inspired by Hemingway’s “Hill’s Like White Elephants”. I have written no more or less than is needed to say what the story is about. It was one of the most tricky things I have written to get right. In truth you’d have to be pretty dumb not to understand it.

“I’m going to have a coffee, how about you?” said the man.

“Ok, I’ll have a tea,” said the girl. She took off her coat and hung it on the back of the chair.

For a minute neither moved as the flight announcement came over the Tannoy. The man listened.

“Huh, half an hour delay.”

“Yeah.” she said and sat down looking at the table.

Once he had walked away she looked up again. In the main hall people were purposefully heading to the e-ticket machines with their suitcases on wheels. There were many business people sitting in the café on laptops. The queue was short and the man waited, counting his change. When he returned with two cardboard cups she was looking at the table again.

“Do you have to go?” she said, shifting on the hard seat.

With shaking hands the man put down the cups and before sitting down, he returned the change into his coat pocket.

“Daylight robbery that coffee.”

“You know they can do amazing things these days, you know, doctors and that.”

“I put some milk in your tea, hope that’s ok.”

The girl looked down and touched her eyes with her fingers.

“Yeah, fine,” she said.

He sipped at the hot coffee carefully and put it down again. Then he pulled the coat around himself and shivered a little.

“Are you cold?”

“Oh no, I’m fine.”

“Probably because you’re just so thin now.”

“It’s better on the other side of customs I think,” he said, motioning to the cup.

They were silent for several minutes. The man stared at the flight departures screen and the girl at the table.

“It’s good though, isn’t it?” she said.

“Yes, I’m not complaining. I need to stock up anyway.”

“How long now?”

“What? Oh, the flight? Still delayed.”

“Ah.”

“Have you ever been in this airport?”

“No.”

“Me neither. Shame I didn’t get an e-ticket, I could have gone through the gate.”

“Well, then I’d just have had to go straight home.”

They both drank from their cups at the same time. The sound of people filled everything. The girl looked up at the departures screen, the busy hall and the full café.

“Getting busy,” said the man, “probably more delays.”

“It’s so claustrophobic in here. All these business people on computers, it’s so pointless.”

“I know.”

The girl fiddled with her plastic spoon. “Mum said hello by the way.”

“Oh, did she?”

“I told her I was coming to see you off.”

“I’m quite surprised.”

“Well, things are different now.”

“Yes, they are, I suppose. Very different.”

“You could stay you know.”

“Oh, I think everything that can be done has been done, they said so.”

“But, there’s always a hope isn’t there?”

“I don’t think there really is anymore. One has to say enough is enough. The pain –”

“Really? Are you sure about that?”

“Yes, Liz, I think I am.”

“You only think?”

“Ok, I know it’s time.”

“So that’s it? You know it’s time? It doesn’t matter about anyone else?”

“Of course it matters, but things would only get worse from now on otherwise. Isn’t that bad for all of us?”

“No. Yes. Oh, I don’t know.”

They sat in silence as the café buzzed around them. The man glanced at the board several times. A woman collected their empty cups.

“Once I go through departures you’ll have the good memories then,” he said, “it’s only harder because I’m still here.”

“But I don’t want you to go. I want you here.”

“I know, but you wouldn’t really want to see me get worse, would you?”

“Looks like I have no choice.”

“Am I being unreasonable?”

“No, not really. I mean, I wouldn’t know what to do for the best either.”

“You know I love you.”

“Yes. I love you too. But I’ll never get used to it.”

“No, I understand that.”

“But just a little longer wouldn’t hurt.”

For a while the girl looked across at the departure gate and the man looked at the screen.

“Oh, they are calling the flight,” he said.

“Ok.”

They got up and the girl carried her coat. Walking across the hall, they reached the queue for departures. They stood and looked at one another.

“Give us a hug, Liz, one last time.”

They hugged and she said, “You don’t have to go, stay with us.”

The embrace ended. They stood before each other.

Posted in Short Stories.

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