Not such a stupid thing
© Folakemi Emem-Akpan
It was such a stupid, simple thing to do. They all sounded beautiful, and if there was one thing my life needed at the moment, it was beauty and a little simplicity. And they were all so very far away, and I needed to get very far away from routine.
I tacked the maps of Greece, Ethiopia and Australia to different angles of my library wall, Greece because I was born there, Ethiopia because it sounded exotic and Australia because…well I don’t know.
I spun on my feet, gathered momentum and whirled with all of my strength. It was a good thing I was all by myself at home; women approaching their fifties do not spin and whirl and gather momentum like yoyos. Why, it is downright unladylike.
When I finally stopped, I was facing the map of Australia.
I sat at my desk and very quickly, before I convinced myself to change my mind, called my travel agent who was also my good friend.
“Christie, I need you to book me a flight to Australia. Yes, yes, and I need to leave by next week.”
I hung on to the phone as she asked me why I wanted to go to Australia, which exact town I was going, and how long was I staying.
I bit my fingers down to the quick as I responded to her questions. I didn’t know why I was going to Australia, except perhaps to relax, escape away from the madness of living in New York. I needed to take a break after the craziness of my thirteenth book reaching the bestseller list.
“Take care of everything.” I said.
I arrived Brisbane in mid-March, on an afternoon so hot that I didn’t need divine guidance to remove my jacket, roll up my sleeves, unhitch my cap.
I proceeded to search for my name on a placard.
Christie had only said that someone would be waiting for me, making no mention of the person’s gender or race or age. Why hadn’t I asked?
Fifteen minutes later, sweaty and fuming, I could not still find the person who was to pick me.
Shaking my head disgustedly but determined to give myself a proper holiday, I started to make my way to the entrance of the arrival lounge, my one box rolling not too smoothly behind me. A red-bandanaed man was just swinging open the door as I bent to straighten the tyre of the errant box.
I couldn’t have scripted it better myself.
The door caught me squarely in the face, and I thought I heard the sound of smashing bone. A thousand stars lit up behind my eyes and I felt myself falling through space, falling, falling, falling…
When I came to, the man was fanning me with his hat. And of all things to consider at a time like that, I considered his bald head. Pink, as smooth as a baby’s buttocks, as if he’d not just gone bald but had been so all of his life.
“Are you okay?” His face was a mask of worry.
I groaned. “I guess so. Is my nose broken?”
Fear lit up his eyes and he reached out very tenderly to touch my nose. It was then that I confirmed that it wasn’t broken. A lot bruised, but not in the least bit broken.
“I guess it’s all right.” Then I realised that people were watching us. I was still lying on the floor, and he was still kneeling beside me, fanning me still.
Laughing at the absurdity of the situation, I allowed him help me up. “Are you sure you’re okay?” He asked again.
“Yes I am. But I’m going to need a taxi. Someone was supposed to pick me but he hasn’t shown up, and my friend Christie said he would be here.”
“Are you Evie? From the U.S.?”
“Yes. And you are?”
“Arthur. I’m Christie’s brother-in-law. She called me at the last moment to be here. The guy who was supposed to pick you originally got sick and Christie tried to reach you but you were already in transit, in the air. She had to call me to come pick you.”
For the first time, I noticed that Arthur was quite handsome. He had a straight nose, full generous lips, and eyes the colour of the sea, filled with the wisdom of the life experiences he had gathered over his fifty-something years of living.
And there was something regal in his bearing, something dignified, the same quality Philip, my late husband had unconsciously exuded.
I smiled as we shook hands. He wasn’t wearing a wedding band.
Perhaps coming on a whim to Australia had not been such a stupid thing after all.