…you’re in Pearson International Airport in Toronto, with a three-hour layover until your flight to St. Louis. All you have with you is a kit bag, a bottle of water and a deep tiredness. You sit against a temporary wall, the kind of wooden partition that masks one section from another while goodness knows what is going on behind you. But there’s no construction noise, no passengers squawking their delays. It’s as quiet as an airport can be at 11.00am. Through the high windows you can see rain falling all the way from the airport to the city.
You reach into your bag and take out your notepad and pen, intent on scratching away at whatever it is that you started all those hours ago at Heathrow, when the last train got you there just after midnight and check-in doesn’t open until six. It’s been a long day already. It started yesterday evening, a cold wait on a platform while fireworks blasted loud colours.
You’re on page eighteen of the small pad. This feels right, somehow. Without quite knowing it you’ve chosen to sit across from the Alitalia check-in desk even though you picked your spot on the floor only so that you could look around, if you wanted to, and have some space. You add to the writing, resting the pad on one bent knee.
You’ve come to the point where you need to know what Jean-Luc’s wife is called. You know she’s Italian, and you have a gentle idea what she looks like, how she is, the kind of phrases she uses, but you don’t know her name. You’ve been sitting there on the bare floor for an hour and your body is starting to complain, so you stand and walk across to the desk. “This might sound weird,” you say, “but what’s your name?” you ask to the girl in the white shirt with red and green trim.
She looks back like she might call security at any moment, so you explain. “I need a name. It doesn’t have to be yours,” then add “I’m writing,” as if it explains everything.
“Christina.” Her accent is Canadian-Italian, quieter than you thought it would be.
“Thank you,” you say, and walk back to your spot on the floor. There are marks in the dust where your legs swished it around. You remove the ‘h’, because she’s Italian , Jean-Luc’s wife, and it feels better that way. ‘Cristina is Italian, prone to passivity’, you write on your pad. Another hour until you have to go back in to where there are carpets, and wait for your next flight there.