Entering the terminal I realise that my passport is missing. Walking against the flow of passengers I find the gate and walk back down the sloping corridor to the plane. As I emerge into the aisle the hostesses and cleaners react like beetles in the light – I explain I have lost something and go back to my seat.
I check the pouch in front, the space beneath the seats, the locker above. The hostess is getting nervous but I reason with her that my passport has to be on the plane or I wouldn’t be here. The thought of a life in Stanstead overcomes my pride, so the cleaners patiently wait as I pick through half-eaten sandwiches in their clear plastic bags. I find my magazine, my sushi rapper, the Easyjet printout but not my passport. What happens when a passenger arrives without papers? – the hostesses don’t know but their smiles are slipping. There is a hint of a frown as I go back to my seat once more. Squeezing my hand between the grey PVC cushions my fingers touch the top of something. I prise the burgundy booklet out of its hole and I feel like singing.
Leaving the plane once more the world seems different – like a theatre after the audience has gone. I walk empty corridors and escalators and travel in my own personal shuttle – as we glide down the concrete tunnels a woman’s soothing voice breathes in my ear ‘please hold tight’.