Departure Gate a short story by Justin Tuijl
“I’m going to have a coffee, how about you?” said the man.
“Ok, I’ll have a tea,” said the girl. She took off her coat and hung it on the back of the chair.
For a minute neither moved as the flight announcement came over the Tannoy. The man listened.
“Huh, half an hour delay.”
“Yeah.” she said and sat down looking at the table.
Once he had walked away she looked up again. In the main hall people were purposefully heading to the e-ticket machines with their suitcases on wheels. There were many business people sitting in the café on laptops but the que was short. The man waited in the que checking his change. When he returned with two cardboard cups she was looking at the table again.
“Do you have to go?” she said, shifting on the hard seat.
With a shaking hand the man put down the cups and before sitting down returned the change to his coat pocket.
“Daylight robbery that coffee.”
“You know they can do amazing things these days, you know, doctors and that.”
“I put some milk in your tea, hope that’s ok.”
The girl looked down and touched her eyes with her fingers.
“Yeah, fine,” she said.
He sipped at the hot coffee carefully and put it down again. Then he pulled the coat around himself and shivered a little.
“Are you cold?”
“Oh no, I’m fine.”
“Probably because you are so thin.”
“It’s better on the other side of customs I think,” he said, motioning to the cup.
They were silent for several minutes. The man starred at the flight departures screen and the girl at the table.
“It’s good though isn’t it?” she said.
“Yes, I’m not complaining. I need to stock up anyway.”
“How long now?”
“What? Oh, the flight? Still delayed.”
“Have you ever been in this airport?”
“Me neither. Shame I didn’t get an e-ticket, I could have gone through the gate.”
“Well then I’d have just have had to go straight home.”
They both drank from their cups at the same time. The sound of people filled everything. The girl looked up at the departures screen, the busy hall and the full café.
“Getting busy,” said the man, “probably more delays.”
“It’s so claustrophobic in here. All these business people on computers.”
“Mum said hello by the way.”
“Oh did she?”
“I told her I was coming.”
“I’m quite surprised.”
“Well, things are different now.”
“Yes, they are, I suppose, very different.”
“You could stay you know.”
“Oh, I think everything that can be done has been done.”
“But, there’s always a hope isn’t there?”
“I don’t think there really is anymore. One has to say enough is enough.”
“Really? Are you sure about that?”
“Yes, Liz, I think I am.”
“You only think?”
“Ok, I know it’s time.”
“So that’s it? You know it’s time? It doesn’t matter about anyone else?”
“Of course it matters, but things can only get worse from now on. Isn’t that worse for everyone else?”
“No. Yes. Oh I don’t know.”
They sat in science as the café buzzed around them. Then man glanced at the board several times. A woman collected their empty cups.
“Once I go through departures you’ll just have the memory then,” he said, “it’s only harder because I’m still here.”
“But I don’t want you to go.”
“I know, but you won’t want to see me worse would you?”
“Looks like I have no choice.”
“Am I being unreasonable?”
“No, not really. I mean, I wouldn’t know what to do either.”
“You know I love you.”
“Yes. I love you too. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it.”
“No, I understand that.”
“But just a little longer wouldn’t hurt.”
For a while the girl looked across at the departure gate and the man looked at the screen.
“Oh they are calling the flight,” he said.
They got up and the girl carried her coat. Walking across the hall they reached the que for departures. They stood and looked at one another.
“Give us a hug, Liz, one last time.”
They hugged and she said: “You don’t have to go, stay with us.”
The hug finished and they stood before each other.