It is my first visit to an airport terminal in over a year. I have no reason to be here. Not yet, anyway. But I’m trying to make a decision. I suspect that the answer is no.
The departure hall of the international terminal looks cleaner, whiter than I remember it, but emptier. Not emptier of people: They are still shuffling towards the check-in desks or posing for a final photo in front of the SYD sign before immigration and security.
Several shops and eateries are dark, closed. Victims of the pandemic.
The WHSmith bookshop/convenience store is still there, but its white brightness, its sterility, is off putting. I want somewhere to linger in dim light, somewhere that hold the scent of books and beautiful things, the hint of an adventure about to unfold. Instead it has all the ambience of a chain pharmacy.
The actual pharmacy is closed. I could buy a suitcase, some surf wear, sunglasses, Australian kitsch or a postage stamp though.
I am not here to shop, though I like to imagine I could be here without luggage, trying to find what I need for my holiday amongst the limited choices. A challenge.
However, I would like some lunch. The choices are reduced, the place where I once had a wonderful chicken katsu burger is closed. Japanese tempts, the scent of soy could help me with my decision. No, I choose a small plate of salad and find a spot by the windows to eat.
Beyond the silhouettes of passengers and crew making their way to their gates are the aircraft themselves. Waiting. Departing. Arriving. Soaring off into that blue sky with only a hint of wispy high cloud.
Is that me aboard one of them? I see myself looking out one of those darkened portholes that line the fuselage. Am I anxious about the turbulence? Strangely, for me, I do not feel it right now. Instead I imagine the are-we-there-yet of an interminably long flight, that knowledge of while everything may be good right now, it might get worse in future. It is an inability to live in the moment.
Is a shorter flight in order? But then you spend your whole time ascending and descending with barely any time to enjoy the good bits when you cruise high in the stable air and everything is at peace.
Time. Time is at the root of the issue. There is never enough of it.
I watched Four Corners on Monday. It featured understaffed organisations like hospitals and schools with the remaining staff burnt out by relentless work without relief. The demands of work and home subsume you until you have no time to be yourself. You forget who you are.
I am here to try to remember.
Do I want to fly on Friday?
I haven’t told anyone.
I’m owed a trip, a holiday, but will it just complicate things?
There are storms, wind and rain forecast. Is that how I want to begin flying again?
Maybe I can survive until January when we go as a family.
I need to go home now, to get back to work. Too cook an after school snack, dinner, help with maths homework, plan the January trip to the satisfaction of the others.
Step outside of the terminal and am suddenly transported to another country. A line of cars, taxis, delivering departing passengers. Humidity. A silver-grey sky with the first signs of developing storms. The perfect day is being pushed out to see. Threats approach.
I still haven’t made a decision.