The homecoming. / 26 April 2011
I didn't want to leave Japan. I didn't want to say goodbye to the nifty little wheelchair with the skinny wheels. I certainly wasn't looking forward to using my manual wheelchair; to re-engaging with its dual personality. Yes it offers the prospect of movement, but then it is also a cage that restricts me because I do not have the necessary physical attributes to move myself any significant distance.
I feel sick to the pit of my stomach at the thought of surrendering all the freedom I have so recently experienced.
At the airport I cease to be a person and become baggage. I've said goodbye to SP, and been handed over, by the very considerate Japanese lady, to a typical airport worker; he might be Korean. He takes control of my chair; takes away my passport and noses through it before handing it to the security team. At one point I am parked facing a wall, I have my luggage balanced on my lap and cannot even turn around.
At the boarding gate I am handed back to the Japanese lady who makes sure I have somewhere comfortable to wait until the boarding call.
Passengers who need assistance tend to be taken on board first and helped off when everyone else has gone so I have just a 30 minute wait and then I really do have to go.
I share a row of seats with a little family who carefully prepare their sick-bags as soon as they are settled. The aircraft personnel are excellent, and do their best to make this long flight as stress free as possible. On arrival I am soon handed over to the English version of the typical airport worker. I do not understand his English and he has a strange gait which makes for a very jerky ride, but he does also manage some of my luggage. The route is dirty, battered and uninviting; all around me it smells. I feel rather shocked.
I do manage to hang on to my passport and after I've shown it to the security control person, we head for the baggage carousel. At first my pusher takes no notice of me, so we wait a while before he discovers we are at the wrong carousel. I get a little agitated until he follows my directions; everything is clearly marked, but maybe he's just not concentrating.
I am met in the arrivals hall, and get a wonderful warm welcome. The weather is also welcoming sunshine and England looks vibrantly green with large open spaces. I look with different eyes, wary of being swallowed up by the familiar. I need to hold on to the magic; I need the hope of better.
I have learned from Sumida, the river who lives with the serpent sea. I've tasted the freedom and I will be biding my time.
to a smooth dull grey,
like a well-fed lion,
sleeps beside her.
one into the other,
with the slow sensuality
of familiar partners,
they appear as one
they are each
their own time.