The long goodbye
The wooden ferry lurches forward and a plume of smoke settles over lower town dock. As we pull away we are waving at my mother. The children with their new splashes of freckles and sand flecked hair wave the hardest. The gap between stern and dock widens and we head towards the cut in the mangroves that will lead us into the channel proper.
I push fly rod tubes and duffels onto the floor and sit on the cooler as the channel opens up. The colours change from the dun of the marina into thirty shades of blue. We are now waving as frantically as lunatics on a day trip. The children blow kisses and my mother becomes smaller still as the captain opens up the throttles. We move into the absolute blueness of the straits. Following the curve of shoreline I can just make out another dock, now slanting and twisted, were I have fond memories of my father at his happiest. His chambray eyes twinkling as he scanned this same water. Further along I can just make out low breakers sipping at the reef. Beyond that is the darkest blue of the sea. Then Africa.
The engine note picks up and we are lashed with salt spray. My mother is not yet a speck so we wave harder still. She seems to be mirroring the intensity of our waves. Her long silver hair glinting like chromium in the morning sun. There are now the most sublime aquamarines between she and us. Our eyes tear up but we later pass it off as salt and wind.
Travel is the thread that runs through all that is Imperial Black. A constant flurry of arrivals and departures has perhaps left us a bit numb. Some places do resonate deeper and you feel a pang as you say your goodbyes with the thought that you might not ever see these people, this place, again. Lots of goodbyes over the years but where has the long heartfelt one gone?
These days We get booted out of the car at the airport. Perhaps a quick kiss through the drivers window and then thrust into the maelstrom of security. Disoriented, we focus on the removal of necessary items, and the grotesqueness of the barefooted smudge dissipating on the metal detector foot pad One might briefly look back to see a significant other making a dash for the exit ahead of the taxi queue.
Trains sound romantic but rarely are (US trains not even given consideration here). Paul Theroux has these splendid train journeys which I never seem to experience. Then again his journeys tend to start on his own and end on his own. Mine usually begin with a run from the taxi, a quick scan of a foreign departure board whilst an ear splitting Teutonic klaxon reverberates the pigeon speckled space.
I suppose that leaving a loved ones house counts but only if they have a long drive. There is waving but all too soon children's ear phones are plugged in and you are scanning the radio for a better start to the journey....
My mother is now officially a speck that becomes a blur. She then fades into the blueness of the water. We wave for a bit longer just in case she can see us. Then arms are down and we simply watch the island fade away. A vaguely Sundayish depression settles over me as a thought nags I'll never see her again. The feeling is unshakeable for a half hour before it vanishes as we nudge our arrival at another islands dock. Someone else's departure and someone else's goodbye.