by Sian Cummins
It feels strange, sipping a pint of export at 9 am, but I remind myself that the usual rules don’t apply in the departure lounge. And the coffee looks nasty. Where I’m heading, the good stuff’s an institution; strong as a fever dream with a halo of bread and a lick of cream cheese beside. I came through too early and had to wander for a bit while I waited for the bar to open. I’m not feeling too bad, considering. A bit wired – excited, not unhappy – less sore by the minute, but needing the pint and the sit-down to gather my thoughts.
A man in a waiter’s uniform asks to see my boarding card, and nods.
‘You’ve got a while to wait.’
‘Let me see what I can do anyway. They might let you have one or two of your songs early.’
He disappears behind a Staff Only door. Songs? I check their clock and reckon on it being just over an hour since I was hit. Can he mean what I think he means?
He comes back.
‘Sian Cummins? 10th October 1998, The Thirsty Scholar. You put two quid in but they closed up half an hour later. You lost your last track.’
He winks and goes back through Staff Only. A minute or so later, David’s Last Summer is playing out of speakers above my head. I snort laughter and lager out of my broken nose. I wish I could tell Chris that our theory was right, but he’s on the other side of the gates and once you’re through, you’re through. A pale older man with a holdall taps me on the shoulder.
‘You get to choose on the flight,’ he says, ‘otherwise my guess is you’d be hearing this one a lot.’ He smiles and turns back to his paper.
When I’m called to board I still can’t wholly believe the place exists. Probably takes a few days there to get over that. Sure enough, on the back of the seat in front is a personalised entertainment system. I scroll through the lost tracks, chosen for love, luck, why not, and all a waste of jukebox money. I select Ain’t no mountain high enough and it reminds me of the speech I once gave a loose-limbed angel over piss weak coffee; rehearsed as all hell, though I meant every word and more. There might still be a way I can keep an eye on him – or maybe this is as good a time as any to let go.
I’ve done my landing card though I don’t believe border control’s as strict there as everyone makes out. I settle back and think about what I’ll do first. Sightseeing, trace Lennon’s steps in the park, use the numbers I’ve got for a handful of relatives. There’s momentary sadness (for one thing I’ll hear no more new releases), but then we climb above the weather and there’s blue sky and supreme, mile-high sunshine.
Sian Cummins lives in Manchester and is writing her second novel. More at siancummins.wordpress.com