02 September 2018


And then I was standing in Birmingham Airport again, staring at my phone and waiting, the end of my pathetic bachelor dad summer that seemed to stretch on and on until it was done. On the arrivals board, there was that same Flybe flight from Stuttgart that had caused all the trouble to my father when he came in July, when he had missed the boarding of his first delayed flight and needed to take this one, the second one that he had to pay for out of pocket. The second flight was late that day and it was again today — I felt a phantom anxiety he might appear, anger like tar spilling out on everything and making me feel like a child again. I leaned against the railing and distracted myself glancing down at my phone and watching happy Sikh and Southeast Asian families come through one after another.

The bags came unpacked in the living room, with the girls showing me thing after thing they had gotten in Japan, plastic sundries, anime characters that we don't have in Great Britain, or not yet. I watched them, before some whiskey from my father-in-law appeared, and then endless other gifts for anyone else who might have been remembered. Yoko asked if I was working and everyone went to bed and got up and everything was normal. I meditated, I had to accept, breath with, the sound of Coyote Peterson in the background, amazed by some giant tortoise, and the sounds of Japanese greetings which I was meant to return, regardless of how distant I felt, how alone, how close White Tara might have been.

In Paris, a woman had stopped my brother and me at one of the fountains — she'd come up and asked us where we were from and her accent gave away before she said it that she was from Baltimore and here, in Paris, for some reason or another, something I don't remember or didn't hear. She walked with us for a bit and then went off, back to her family and her adventure. When you looked, there were any number of Americans like this, on holiday and desperately needing to talk to someone, to anyone. We joked about the polo-shirted dads you could categorise, the angry ones, the tired ones, the smarter ones in linen, the well-groomed ones, the helpful ones, the annoyed ones, the ones that were telling off their children or their wives. The same dads seemed to be plodding around Stockholm and Tallinn, complaining and looking around for something they recognised, wanting desperately to announce a fact or opinion, to be heard, for someone to ask them about America, where they are from, something they knew something about.

I've been keeping my mouth shut, if and when I can. The Pihlajas of Harborne walk up and down to the High Street, and I suddenly feel like people can see me again, after they greet the children and then Yoko and then me, superfluous like a skin tag, just standing there, but at least visible, present. And you went away too, right? I did, yes, I did, I did have a good time, I suppose, yes, I was working, but... and I don't have the energy to finish whatever it is that might come next. Something about writing as prison, about plant-based food and the amount of saturated fat in cheese. Yeah, fine, it was fine, thanks. We walk to the Works and then towards St Peter's like a lodestar, and back home. Everyone goes to bed, but the lights are still on. I go through the house and shut them off, collect cups and bowls from wherever they've been left — shut down the computer and fold a blanket. We'll wake up together in the morning.