It had been a long day at the end of a perfect week. After a month and a half living and working on my own in Montreal 3500 miles from home my girlfriend Louise had came over for a week long visit. Well, I say perfect… it wasn't really perfect as I still had to go to work during the day. But that worked out rather well as the poor woman was jet-lagged into orbit and mornings weren't exactly her forte while she visited me. Which left her with just the afternoons to fill. Not being a ‘girly’ girl, she didn't fill her days with shopping, but with walking around places I’d recommended and seeing stuff. Occasionally even doing my housework in the apartment. (She is a goddess among women!)
We’d had enough time after I finished work each day to go and do things that any couple would do in such a situation. We went to fancy restaurants, not so fancy restaurants and even got her to sample ‘Poutine’. Now Poutine is a rather revolting sounding concoction that against all known culinary laws actually tastes like angels having sex with your tongue. A combination of chips (fries to those not of the English persuasion), gravy and cheese curds. Now the idea of cheese curds’ sounded like an awful way to ruin a chips and gravy meal to me, but then after a month of avoiding trying the damn stuff, and being harangued by every Canadian I knew I finally gave in.I was expecting to get as much enjoyment as biting off my own testicles… However it tasted wonderful, even when I reminded myself I was eating cheese curds mixed in gravy and chips.
But the week passed all too fast one night was spent going to a polish restaurant I’d never been into in the french quarter of Montreal. (The idea of a french speaking region such as montreal having a ‘french quarter’ seemed odd. It was almost as weird as if Liverpool had an ‘English quarter’.) The meal was wonderful, the company even better but with every bite we both felt the thread that held us together in Montreal drawing thinner and thinner as the time got ever closer to the time we’d both have to head back to England. Where after a few days to see my kids and my parents I’d leave her in my home town and travel once more back to Montreal...alone.
The flight was in the evening at the end of a day I ended up having to take off ill from work due to nearly poisoning us both with reheated pulled pork. Now I'm not an amazing cook, but I rarely poison anyone, either on purpose or otherwise. But as I’d been asked to stay back at work far later than usual, we’d ended up missing our reservation at a very fancy restaurant and as a result the pulled pork left over from the previous evening was reheated...after a day in which my fridge battled the crazy Montreal heat. A battle I can tell you from the resulting food poisoning it lost in a most spectacular way. I’ll spare you the gory details… but suffice to say by the time we got to the airport that evening neither of us was on the top of our game and had been awake a fairly long time already. A rather important fact that will come into play later.
So we got on our first of two flights, from Montreal Trudeau airport to London Heathrow. So by the time we reached Heathrow at the end of a 7 hour flight, at the end of an already very long day we felt terrible. Even more so as we’d been unable to sleep on the flight due to having a man mountain in the seat next to me with overly large and pointy elbows and knees snoring loudly like two buffalo have kinky sex.
By the time we disembarked into terminal five of London Heathrow airport (a terribly sterile place with all the character of a blank wall.) Neither of us were in a good place. The sleep deprivation of being awake more than 30 hours on top of food poisoning left us both tripping balls in a zombie haze in the middle of one of the busiest airports in the world with 3-4 hours to kill. Although having to go through heathrow terminal five on acid would have been preferable. It would have been far more fun.
So after arriving and making an executive decision to go outside so I could have a smoke, the fresh air hit us both like a bomb next to the bizarre water jet sculpture thing. We headed back inside. Two chain smoked cigarettes were enough to recharge my nicotineless body. I no longer wanted to kill every man woman, child and small furry animal I came into contact with but we would have to go through Heathrow customs….
If you've ever been through customs at Heathrow airport you’ll know that while the people there are pleasant enough, they take the security side rather seriously and do not racially profile people. So if you turn up looking like a ninja post box you have just as much chance of them pulling you to one side as if you were dressed in a cliché bowler hat and suit and have skin as white as the driven snow. ‘White privilege’ means nothing there as you snake round in a seemingly endless line back and forth until you hit the terror that is Heathrow customs.
Normally I always get pulled at customs, once for having a fold up walking stick that apparently resembled a gun, then the time where a bag of camera gear containing a LED light apparently looked like a bomb, then the hilarious time my then 3 year old daughter had slipped a plasticine ‘man’ into my hand luggage next to my watch. (That was all kinds of fun as it seems plasticine looks like C4 plastic explosive under the scanner. and as such I now think UK airports must have a detailed map of my rectal area!) But maybe it’s just as my passport photo makes me look like Carlos the fucking jackal. Or it could just be my epic legendary bad luck.
But this time I sailed through without a care in the world, but Louise however...her they pulled…. It turned out as she and I were both in a barely human haze she had forgot a bottle of water in her hand luggage that sent the customs people in a panic in case it was some sort of liquid explosive.It strangely enough never crossed their minds that maybe as they sold bottles exactly like that not 400 feet away that maybe, just maybe it was a forgotten bottle. So after waiting what felt like several lifetimes finally they let her proceed, minus said bottle of ‘highly dangerous’ mineral spa water.
Everything was swimming and my vision distorted at this point onwards with flashing balls of light in multiple colours, not all of them possible. Things made little sense, neither of us could process simple things such as words, and I'm sure I saw 4 people dressed as Hawaiian elvises at one point. Although that may or may not have actually occurred. One question I do have is what is the proper word for multiple Elvises? is it Elvi? Evises? or simple Elvis as in Sheep are multiple of Sheep? Are we supposed to capitalise or not? These are questions my brain needs answers to!
Caffeine!! we needed coffee, fucking huge buckets of the stuff as thick as tar, that’d certainly help wouldn't it? So we decamped to a small coffee place in the middle of terminal five, which by theat moment started feeling like we were the only humans in a zombie apocalypse.We weaved our way in what I’m pretty sure was not either a straight line, or a normal way to the counter..one of us ordered the drinks...I can't remember who. I just remember being so tired I couldn't see straight.. feeling like ten ton of death and putting one foot in front of the other being a major mental challenge. It was then that the blurred shape behind the counter asked his or her’s most heinous question:
“Would you like anything to eat with that?”
I looked at the blur, trying to focus...I panicked...I looked at Louise, who after a very long pause to think...uttered “I don’t know!”
The blur behind the counter was obviously used to such casualties as us and wasn't phased. As we sat down with our drinks trying to keep awake...me failing miserably and having to be prodded forcibly to stay awake, it was time to go for our second flight. The problem being our legs were not listening to our brains. Our minds were screaming at our limbs to move, however our legs had packed up and moved to a small jamaican island. They were on holiday god dammit and they weren't taking any calls right now.
After deciding that our legs no longer taking orders was a particularly bad thing at that moment in time, I came to the conclusion that jabbing a pen into my leg as hard as I could may help wake the fuckers up and start taking calls again from the brain department. The leg department were not happy at this, and forced me to stand up rather forcibly. Pulling Louise to her feet we staggered our way past a multi coloured horde of travellers, the bright floaty spots of lights in front of my vision had turned into a barbershop pole of stripes at this point. Words no longer formed in our minds, just the predictable 1...2...1...2… of slowly staggering to the departures for the 2nd flight.
They let us on the light, I'm not sure why. I think I may have passed out on the plane, I honestly don't remember any of it until arriving in Newcastle airport. FINALLY WE WERE HOME!! but fate had yet more time to toy with us…. While waiting for our cases in the baggage area… the belt took this exact moment to fuck up. It spent ¾ of an hour dribbling out one single case, then stopping for another few minutes before another case feebly dribbled out onto the baggage area. After much heckling and shouting down the ramp to the poor person below, several lifetimes later our cases arrived.
I can't remember the conversation on the way back to my flat just that my parents and brother had turned up to give us a lift. We got back to the flat and in my infinite wisdom I decided that a maximum of 3 hours sleep were needed if we were to go out for a drink at my local that evening. However Louise's phone died, no alarm went off and we rolled into the Turf at 10.45pm. The single photo from that night shows the two of us looking stoned off our boxes with tiredness with a wide eyed mad gleam.
But it was all worth it when it was time for my sons birthday party on the Sunday. He was 10, and a tenth birthday is a big deal for a kid! That's why I had to come back...no matter what. That's why even though I only sat down twice in the 4 days I was back and was equally as exhausted when I landed back in Montreal ...it was worth it.
I got the cab to my apartment, and as soon as I opened the door the smell of Louise's deodorant was there, her previous bottle of water on the kitchen counter. It was then I knew that I was truly alone until the next time either she came over, or I headed back. If I had any energy left I’d have cried, but I had none. There was nothing left to give, either to myself or for others until I had slept. Then would come the darkness, the time when no ‘next visit’ was yet planned. The time when the black dog would be constantly scratching at the door. That old black dog does a lot of scratching at the door of late… but I’m used to him, he only occasionally gets in these days. Sometimes you learn the best way to keep the darkness at bay is to admit that it is there. Depression is funny like that, it can smell your fear.