A Hurricane To Answer For

#1 Edinburgh – Heathrow – Miami – Port Au Prince

‘For the planters to voluntarily accede that fugitive slaves had fled to become free persons, that they had the ability to consciously and materially negate the condition of perpetual bondage imposed upon them by slavery, would be to undermine the ideological conditions of slavery itself.’

(The Making of Haiti, Carolyn E. Fick)

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I love flying. Offer me a ticket to anywhere and I’ll take it, the longer the haul, the better.

Or I love running away. Either or. Airport coffee, airport sandwiches. I don’t have to do anything. I love the boredom of it.

(I should be rehearsing – practising – my French. I should be. I really should.).

They have WiFi on planes now. Did you know that? I keep my phone off.

All those business travellers – all men – reading voraciously, holding the books up and to their faces in the waiting lounges, with titles like Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America or Paulo Coelho’s Adultery.

And the captain is always called something appropriate. This time, Dirk.

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I finished Fishnet before I left the layover at Heathrow, and The Gracekeepers is buried in my forwarded luggage. I have brought good books, written by friends and acquaintances and I am proud to be reading these books. But there is the niggle that I should use this time – this precious time – more wisely. Not wisely – these are clever and wise books. Worthily. I’m here on someone else’s ticket, not to enjoy myself. This must come under the title of Work. So in an effort to be conscientious and live up more to the idea of myself, I reach for the borrowed tome on Haiti’s slave rebellion and fight for independence, whatever that means (it means the same things, it turns out), finally watch that Edward Snowden documentary. Try to catch up on understanding the world whilst 37,000 feet above it. Late by two or two hundred and fifty years.

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Touch down, and it’s flat, it’s so flat. There is nothing to break to the horizon here. Flat and dark, with trees that look only grey and roads that look only straight. The dusk has finally caught up with us, after nine hours of chasing the sunlit curve on the atlas, outrunning the dark by a matter of mere hours and timezones.

We file dry mouthed and red eyed towards the front of the plane, past the abandoned business class, all discarded magazines and ear plugs and cellophane and glasses that once held – I imagine – champagne or gin. One day, perhaps. I’ve been there once before by accident. The idea of it was better.

But our flight was half empty, and most of us had a row to ourselves, the unimaginable peace of straightened legs across seats and more than one blanket. It was a good humoured flight. Sometimes space to stretch feels like luxury enough.

(I’m not drawing any parallels here with colonial slavery, by the way. That would pretentious, ridiculous and an swingeing insult to all concerned. It’s a very good book.)

The warmth seeps muggy around the opened plane door, steals us out into Miami. 10 hour stopover.

xx

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