Hugh Grant once said that whenever he got gloomy with the state of the world, he thought about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. I can see why. It seems to be one of the few places left in the world where the smiles are real, and the hugs and tears even more so. A bubble of fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, friends. Publicly, shamelessly, actually … loving.
It is comforting to know that come war, plague, or earthquake, there is a checkpoint past which hatred and fear cannot go. A place, somewhere beyond a pair of revolving glass doors, where we are safe.
Well the world has been gloomy, and it seems only death and fear are worthy enough to make the headlines these days. Germanwings. Nepal. The Central African Republic. Capsized boats in the Mediterranean. Surveillance. Corruption. Mass graves. But what if today I did not talk of any of that? What if today, just today, I wrote about nothing particularly dignified or newsworthy?
We do not all have the luxury of living within reasonable distance from the arrivals gate at Heathrow, or any other airport. Nor do we all live in New York City where, like Holly Golightly, we could jump into a cab and go to Tiffany’s. But when I was a child, and my parents were still a pair of poor students, cold and in love in a rainy Glasgow, my mother took a leaf from Julie Andrews’ book and taught us that whenever we were sad, or afraid of a thunderstorm, we should think of our favorite things.
Bright copper kettles, warm woolen mittens, brown paper packages tied up with string. Cream-colored ponies, blue satin sashes, and though I never tasted a crisp apple strudel in my life, my entire childhood was infused with the warm smell of them.
Today I am all grown up and no longer afraid of thunderstorms, for the most part. My fears are of a different kind; they have such abstract names as failure and the future, and take on such horrid forms as bank statements, newspaper headlines, and the bathroom scale. But today the sun is shining through the large windowpanes in our tiny living room, so I have made a list of things I love, of no particular importance and in no particular order, to store away for a gloomy day.
A windowsill wide enough to climb onto with a good book. Spending an afternoon on that windowsill with that book. Reading a sentence by someone you never met that resonates with a thought you never shared. Rain. The smell of damp earth when it rains. Fog on the glass and the temptation to draw your initials on. Drawing your initials on. Carving your initials on the bottom of the sixth grade classroom desk. Finding the initials you once carved on the bottom of the sixth grade classroom desk. The smell of a brand new box of wax coloring crayons. The ever-untouched indigo crayon. Your mother’s pale indigo eye shadow. That eye shadow in your makeup kit today. The trademark pale pink lipstick you wore on that first date. Butterflies, the good kind. Finding that freckle inside his left collarbone. Wine that tastes better the next day. Blowing a bubble. Twitching your nose. Discovering you still remember how to blow a bubble and twitch your nose. The morning sun on your lashes. The smell of a good espresso. The two espresso cups on the counter. The sound of your father’s smile over the phone. Long-distance breakfasts. Lemon juice and mint over apples and bananas. Knowing that some emotions transcend space and time.
Hugh Grant also said:
‘General opinion's starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don't see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. [...] If you look for it, I've got a sneaky feeling you'll find that love actually is all around.’
Love will never be worthy enough to make the headlines, but that is all right. Because today I don’t feel like writing about anything particularly dignified or newsworthy.
Today, just today, I want to write about hands that fit perfectly into one another. About a vanilla-scented candle on the dresser, and a pair of plane tickets in that dresser. About the promise of an arrivals gate, soon.
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