I arrived so early to the airport, I was the first one there. I was so early, the security guard’s name is Ayaan, and we got into such giggles during the security screening that the male guard asked if we knew each other.
At immigration, the officer asks me which guesthouse I stayed in. I tell him I was working here, that I had a house here. It’s always strange, the first time you articulate a change. The first time you use the past tense.
Past security and immigration, the terminal is quiet. The roof is stained glass, with a second floor balcony, framed by wrought iron railings. The gate between the terminal and the tarmac is wrought iron to match, with golden flowers along the top, and great flowering bushes of deep pink on either side. A clock shows the time in Dubai. A small coffee shop makes espressos for a group of men, and for a moment, the sputtering of the coffee machine is the only sound. Nobody is wearing masks.
For a moment, I cannot help but feel that this is not an airport, that I am waiting for a tiny cup of coffee instead of an airplane to take me out of the country. For a moment, it feels as though I am staying, as though I will relax by the flowers and the stained glass and then return to my house.
There are still four clothespins on my clothesline.
But I will not return to that house. I have already been stamped out of the country. Airports are a one-way stream of people, pushing us towards the beyond, towards the tarmac past the gate, to the collapsible staircases leading us to the great flying machines. For the moment, I know my fate. I chose it. The bird will swallow me, and spit me out across an ocean.