Thursday, February 16, 2012
At JFK the immigrations officer stamped my passport, looked up, smiled, and said, Welcome home.
Out of Amsterdam I had upgraded my seat inflight on KLM to the 'comfort zone' in economy, the best thing since unsalted butter, and had also scored a row of three empty seats and more legroom than I had imagined possible in cattle class. My similar seat had been so comfortable on the flight from Cape Town that I decided to pay the $143 - with six feet of me to accommodate, economy seats are awful and I leave the flight feeling like a pretzel. My own experience on KLM, so dreaded in advance that I tried hard to cancel my ticket after Ellen's fiasco to Cape Town, has been spookily good. Everything was smooth as silk, the flight crew very courteous and professional, snacks and drinks always available in the galleys, excellent movies, spotless bathrooms regularly visited by the crew, and...that comfort zone seat. Having lambasted them previously I feel it fair to report the better experience.
I waited a while for the Frenchie to fetch me at the airport - the flight was early, my luggage popped out fast, his A train was running late, and I killed the time on the floor in arrivals, reading Ondaatje's In the Skin of a Lion and listening to the patter of New York voices around me greeting friends, picking up customers, schilling cab rides, exclaiming. The sky outside was as grey as the cement pillar I leaned against.
Fingers gently in my hair. Vincent smiling down at me. A cab ride home. The driver remarkably offering - offering - to drive down Atlantic, slicing $10 off the fare. Yes, please. He listened to NPR turned low, a neat man in a neat jacket.
At home, gifts and flowers, a Valentine's balloon from the cat graffittized with instructions as to where I might find his pellets to feed him, at once; the feline himself regarding me with crouched suspicion from under a chair. My life compressed from a long airy house swathed in green garden to a few feet in any direction.
We walk out in the early evening to shop for an easy supper of herbed rotisserie chicken and wild rocket leaves. Vince opens prosecco. We sleep early and hard.
The morning is a long breakfast in bed alone with the cat, the book, then my laptop and dayplanner, construction noises from across the road where the endless hole has become concrete foundations. I make plans, answer emails, note deadlines, plot my course, my legs beneath the white comforter now covered in a massive flame-coloured kikoi, bought on Monday at Greenmarket Square under another sky.