"Hearing Myself Think" by Richard Beard - www.richardbeard.info 382 words
Heathrow Airport is one of the few places in England you can be sure of seeing a gun. These guns are carried by policemen in short-sleeved shirts and black flak-jackets, alert for terrorists about to blow up Tie-Rack. They are unlikely to confront me directly, but if they do I shall tell them the truth. I shall state my business. I’m planning to stop at Heathrow Airport until I see someone I know. (...)
Astonishingly, I wait for thirty-nine minutes and don’t see one person I know. Not one, and no-one knows me. I’m as anonymous as the drivers with their universal name-cards (some surnames I know), except the drivers are better dressed. Since the kids, whatever I wear looks like pyjamas. Coats, shirts, T-shirts, jeans, suits; like slept-in pyjamas. (...)
I hear myself thinking about all the people I know who have let me down by not leaving early on a Tuesday morning for glamorous European destinations. My former colleagues from the insurance office must still be stuck at their desks, like I always said they would be, when I was stuck there too, wasting my time and unable to settle while Ally moved steadily onward, getting her PhD and her first research fellowship at Reading University, her first promotion.
Our more recent grown-up friends, who have serious jobs and who therefore I half expect to be seeing any moment now, tell me that home-making is a perfectly decent occupation for a man, courageous even, yes, manly to stay at home with the kids. These friends of ours are primarily Ally’s friends. I don’t seem to know anyone anymore, and away from the children and the overhead planes, hearing myself think, I hear the thoughts of a whinger. This is not what I had been hoping to hear.
I start crying, not grimacing or sobbing, just big silent tears rolling down my cheeks. I don’t want anyone I know to see me crying, because I’m not the kind of person who cracks up at Heathrow airport some nothing Tuesday morning. I manage our house impeccably, like a business. It’s a serious job. I have spreadsheets to monitor the hoover-bag situation and colour-coded print-outs about the ethical consequences of nappies. I am not myself this morning. I don’t know who I am.
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