There is packing where I fold clothes, place the delicate between the hardy, tick off all that has to be taken because I am scared I will not get it. It does not matter that the destination has enough and more. It is not mine. I want my little soap bar, my loofah, my fragrance, my comb…and I reach and place all these in new spots. I stumble and find small draws in unexpected places and always have things to put there – sometimes just a little piece of paper that I will lose track of, numbers I jot down and forget who they belong to. I have dialled my own hotel and asked for my own room number from my own room.
I lie down on the bed to feel my whole body being taken in its warmth as a cold blast from the air-conditioner stiffens my bones. I go sniff towels and think of who used them and how. Then I look at the toiletries – shower gels, shampoos, shaving kits. I wash my undergarments with them and use the razor to snip off price tags. I don’t like using shower caps; I like the feel of the spray on some tangled strands.
I take out my own things and arrange them. It feels like setting up a homeless home.
Then, it is time to return and the bags bulge with clothes stuffed in and new acquisitions. I have to push them in, there is no space to demarcate fragile and tough, they must all fit in. Things that don’t are shoved into side pockets or holdalls. Things that you cannot carry are left behind – in the dustbin, in the bathroom, under pillows, in draws. I had written a small poem and I crushed the paper in my hands until it got imprinted on my palm and then I threw it.
I always take pictures before leaving, so I did. A room waiting for someone else who won’t know that just hours ago there was a small bar of chocolate in the bed.
Then I reach where I started from and wait near the conveyor belt for bags that now look different than when they began their journey. I often don’t recognise them and they take a few laps round and round till they almost weep to be taken by me. It happened this time, too. I did not see what I had so proudly called mine.
Home. Unpack. Clothes are creased. New things look strange. Or too familiar. As though you have known them all your life and you got them or bought them because of that. Was travel necessary?
Two days later, I am still unpacking. I have to get things out of my mind, wash them, iron them and hang them in the closet hoping to wear them again. Within confines, the scent of distance is so much like the scent of proximity.