There’s something about the way the light falls here. There’s something about the way it splits the air, and nestles itself alongside the shade. Like an enemy, and a lover. Like the keeper, and the kept.
But maybe it’s not just the light. Maybe it’s the way the light looks when I breathe in the air, touch the earth, hear the birds. Maybe it’s all those parts that make a whole, not just any one piece on its own.
But it’s always the light I notice first.
I had a few hours to kill in LA airport so I bought myself a cold cup of coffee, flicked through a few magazines and wandered airport shops in restless weariness.
Eventually I found the gate, and I waited.
The hauntingly familiar sound of an Australian accent drifted down an aisle, turned a corner and found my ready ear. Travellers exchanged stories of Vegas adventures, glitz and glamour, bright lights and late nights. They spilt favourite memories of the wild, wild west and told their best versions, leaving out the rest. Those stories would be told many more times, in the weeks to come. They would become precise, and well-delivered before they melted into everyday exchanges and what to have for lunch.
I sat still, and breathed it in. I giddily breathed in almost a year of it. I was comforted, sobered, rattled… and then it really hit me: I was heading home.
It had been a long time. I was coming back down from all those mountains I’d climbed, and I didn’t know if I was ready for it. Memories were frozen in time, like long-lost friends still by my side, but already fading.
Did you find what you were looking for?
I don’t understand this language.
Can you repeat the question? Can I phone a friend? Is there another lifeline?
Two words fell out of the mouth of a passing guy in a red t-shirt and landed loudly on the carpet just before midnight. A man in a black t-shirt reached down, collected those two words with his bare hands, looked at them and replied with a simple…
That lone word rolled off his tongue in a revealing American drawl, instantly reminding me of late nights glued to the television years and years before.
I watched the exchange through tired eyes. I watched the exchange with a smile. That one moment slipped beneath my skin, and settled there. It meant much more than a red t-shirt, a black t-shirt, a “G’day mate” and a… “Hello?”
And if I’d had something to say I would’ve said it. I had nothing to say, and I meant it.
Minutes ticked by, lost in watching strangers, who didn’t seem so strange. I’d resigned myself to my decision, there was nothing left to arrange.
As I boarded the plane, the pretty lights of LA seemed further than they seemed near. They glittered in the night, shimmering behind quiet tears. And as I watched out the tiny square window of that plane, those shining lights faded into the black of night.
And it was still for awhile, even though I knew we were moving. Then, somewhere over the Pacific Ocean, the sun rose.
Sure, I’d found some things, but what I’d been looking for? Maybe.
Maybe I’d found more than I ever dared to dream I’d find. Maybe I’d learnt a few things. Maybe I’d left some things behind. Maybe I’d found a moment where I could be free. And wasn’t it worth it, if just for a moment I could be, all I could be?
But if one thing is for sure, it’s that I didn’t have to leave, to find me.
Fifteen hours later, I was back on home turf – smiling secretly at the novelty of the little things that make my home, my home. There is a language here, that speaks volumes in silence.
For me, it’s always the light I notice first.