02 December 2013

A ghost, a phantom limb

The rain this morning has kept up all day. Naomi came downstairs wearing her uniform and I put on her ankle the jewellery I bought for her in Penang this weekend. We left out into the blue morning, the rain falling like it falls in England, not in a sudden downpour, but steady and regular. I drove Naomi to her school and she got out with a bag full of sweets to give her classmates as a going away present. She hugged me and went inside happily, another day like every other day.

29 days now. Like that, the end just came up. I spent today taking down photos from the wall and packing things up. 29 days: fours weeks from tomorrow morning we will be on our flight. I've been spending time, spare time here and there, searching for prices of things, making reservations. Going back is so much easier, I keep saying, my debit card the perfect metaphor for the ease of travelling West. Here, I say, speaking of Malaysia, it took me five weeks to get a bank card. I can close my eyes and see the road home from Terminal 4 at Heathrow. The signs leading off to Staines and the sign on the M1 to the North. The North, with the determiner in front of it.

The weekend in Penang, at the George Town literary festival, felt like fading out. When I was alone, walking up and down the streets in the heat, I couldn't think of anything, but how far away this will all be. It's December now, but the Christmas songs and trees, when I catch them out of the corner of my eyes, feel so strange, like they shouldn't be there, like we should just pretend this year didn't happen. Getting into the taxi last year, headed to Heathrow, I said that exact thing: We will be back soon.

I want to tie this all to some concrete experience, something that will embody this feeling better than just saying ephemeral, silly things about being a ghost. I can't though: I latch on to other metaphors. Malaysia as a phantom limb, something I will moving even in five years, ten years, when the girls are grown and speaking perfect, non-Malaysian, proper English. Maybe when they remember something, when they ask about a picture or a blog post from this year, I'll be able to put it into words.

But now, I am looking to the future, that feeling of the plane pulling up into the sky. When you first start to fly and you catch your breath after everything. Last year, I talked about moving as pushing your whole life, all your possessions, through a keyhole, but I don't feel anything like that this time. That was all excessively melodramatic anyway.

So get on the plane. Shut the hell up. Forget key holes and phantom limbs. There's too much to think about anyway.
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