I suppose airports are the loneliest places in the world. And the most full of love. Watch the arrivals, or departures, and you see the extremes of the human heart. It’s all in the way they touch one another…goodbye…I love you…I won’t be ok without you… …welcome home…I missed you…oh…how I missed you… Or it’s in the lack of all of that…it’s in the ‘nothing’.
I saw a piece of digital art in the gallery in town once. It was about the ‘nothing’. A film rolled around and around…people coming through the glass doors of International Arrivals, and as they walked towards the camera, they disappeared. Before anyone could greet them, they just…faded away. That, I always felt, was like the ‘nothing’.
The first time I saw it, I sat in front of it for twenty minutes, just watching the film loop, with a lump in my throat. Perhaps, behind the cameras, there had been people to meet all of them, and I would go and watch it after that, trying to catch glimpses of joy and recognition in their eyes. Without that, I thought, it was the loneliest thing I’d ever seen. How can there be no one?
But I was young then, and I didn’t know about life yet…about business trips, and friends and families that split themselves across seas and continents. About the things that take you away from one another, and bring you back. And sometimes, at one end of a journey, there really can be no one there when you land. No one to put their arms around you and tell you you’re welcome and you’re wanted.
So today I watch those other people too. The ones who come through the sliding glass of arrivals, or sit down heavily in the departure lounge…and take out their 'phones and their netbooks. And I’ve become one of them. Never a truer word was spoken: no man, nor woman, can be an island. There is nothing more human than needing one another, and needing to know that we are needed. Suitcase in one hand and backpacks on, they stare at their screens, and I wait to see them all smile at the words no one is able to be here to say in person:
Welcome…I missed you, I’m going to miss you…I love you…don’t go…hurry back.
And we are all of us most beautifully lonely, and loved, at that moment…because you cannot be so without someone to miss. And life does not get more happy...and wonderful...and safe, than knowing that.
Dusseldorf-Weeze Airport - 03.08.12