We, and by that I mean Ella, Ypres and I (or is it me?), made it through customs without any notable incident. As I mentioned before, it is at customs that I spotted our moustachioed flight captain. She was with her male first officer (or navigator, I am not very nautical), who, it turned out, sported a hefty pair of breasts. During our wait at customs, I had told Ella about my observation, and its relation with Darwin’s Mammillar Similarities of the Human Species and the Duchess of Spam.
I ducked for cover as Ella approached the baggage carousel. To my surprise she did not hit me over the head with her check luggage. I was pleased with myself. After all, I had averted a predictable catastrophe. Perhaps a concussion resulting from a vintage hat box hitting me over the head. Moreover, I had done it all without help. I had done it without Ypres’s help. I felt proud. I felt real pride. Not the kind of pride exhibited by vivacious drag queens at parades. That is a liberating blooming pride. Rather, it was a particular pride. A pride of satisfaction akin to that of a police officer foiling an elaborate plot. A bank robbery, or a hostage situation. Actually, a robbery and a hostage situation.
Beaming in my V-neck, I turned towards a stern Ypres, and shared my feeling. “You know Ypres, I feel real pride. Not the type of pride…”
The rest, as it turns out, is a blank. Ypres recounted the events for me later as my bandage was readjusted in the taxi cab heading towards Mayfair. As related by Ypres in her notebook, the events occurred as follows. On a side note, she is very accurate. I have already mentioned how she went to Eton, and then on to one of the universities (I forget which one at the moment). Anyway, I used Ypres’s notes for the below.
11:37:21 GMT (Ypres is very precise, even with time zones) – I begin to share my sentiment of pride, by taking up a suitable discussion position vis-à-vis Ypres.
11:37:23 GMT – As I am sharing my sentiment of pride, the lady who was accidentally, and rather gingerly, according to some witnesses, knocked down an escalator at our point of departure by Lanky Ella recognises her at the baggage carrousel.
11:37:35 GMT – In an instant, the lady (Ypres suggests I call her Miss X to preserve her identity, charges were pressed and the trial is still ongoing) grabs a case from the oversized luggage area at her side.
11:37:47 GMT – Miss X heads towards Ella, oversized luggage in hand, with a roar.
11:37:50 GMT – Ella, who has tremendous reflexes, ducks for cover.
11:37:51 GMT – Miss X realises her trajectory cannot be altered.
11:37:53 GMT – Mid-sentence, as I am sharing my sentiment of pride with Ypres, I am hit over the head with an oversized luggage by Miss X.
11:37:54 GMT – I collapse to the ground in an instant. One witness later recalled that I looked like “an elegant tree being feverishly pruned”.
11:38:02 GMT – Miss X, realising what she has done, releases the oversized luggage. It crashes to the ground.
11:38:04 GMT – As a result of its sudden crash on the hard floor, the luggage used to hit me over the head, or Exhibit A, as it later became known, opens.
11:38:06 GMT – It becomes clear to onlookers that its content, white, and packed in small plastic bricks bound by duct tape, is most likely illegal.
11:38:07 GMT – It becomes clear to Miss X that its content is most likely illegal.
11:38:10 GMT – It becomes clear to a nearby sniffer dog that its content is most likely illegal.
11:38:15 GMT – It becomes clear to the officer to whom the dog is attached by way of a lead that its content is most likely illegal.
11:38:18 GMT – There is a pause where all participants are still and look at one another for a reaction.
11:38:28 GMT – As this is Britain, a civil brouhaha erupts.
11:43:31 GMT – After limited confusion, Miss X is apprehended, and claims that the case is not hers. It was merely in the oversized luggage area. Her only goal was to hit “that creature of a klutz” over the head.
11:43:46 to 11:47:51 GMT – Ella exclaims, “So you admit it! Charge her officer!” Onlookers agree. More limited confusion. Someone yells, “Tell it to the judge!” Miss X is taken away.
11:48:03 GMT – Ella and Ypres arrived at the automated machine with their luggage to buy train tickets into London.
11:48:45 GMT – Lanky Ella asks Ypres, “Do you mind covering this, Ypres? My purse is somewhere in that mountain of luggage, but I can’t be bothered to go looking for it.”
11:48:53 GMT – Ypres. “Vasa, is it alright if… Where is Vasa?”
11:48:58 GMT – Ypres and Ella exchange a short glance.
11:49:00 GMT – Both realise they have left me behind by accident.
11:49:04 GMT – Ypres and Ella run in unison to come back and get me, abandoned, and likely concussed, on the floor by the baggage carrousel.
I came to, for the second time since I had landed at Heathrow, with little fanfare. One does not wish to attract attention to oneself. I was getting rather good at coming to with a certain degree of grace after being hit on the head.
“You again!” I rather lost my desired effect of gravitas while uttering those words. “Trust me, this is no picnic for me either, Miss Vasa,” came the reply from the monochrome nurse who had tended to me earlier. The rest of the assessment of my medical situation occurred in complete silence. Vasa and Lanky Ella looked on patiently. The conversation only resumed when I asked the nurse to try to effect a turban while bandaging my head. I wanted something stylish, but not culturally insensitive. Ypres mentioned something about the many facets of Orientalism, and a chap I gather she must know called Edward Said. It was going down the road of a postgraduate lecture, and I already had a headache as it was.
Ella berated the nurse on the bandage. He had completely missed the desired effect. Lanky Ella shares my notion of style. Well, at least on this occasion. The nurse gave us the all clear, and gave Ypres instructions on medical follow-ups. He went off, as jolly as he was before, mumbling something under his breath to the effect of needing a brain to suffer from brain damage. I gather he was not fond of Ypres’s aborted lecture on Orientalism either.
All bandaged up, and a bit unbalanced (the nurse had given me a sedative, even after I assured him that I was perfectly calm), I made it to the train with Ypres and Lanky Ella. We boarded the Heathrow Express into Paddington. We were, of course, in one of the Business First Class compartments. Lanky Ella and I sat down while Ypres dealt with the luggage. It is not because she is my employee that the luggage is her purview. I am a very democratic girl. Rather, it was because the sedative made me indisposed, and, as Ella rightly pointed out, Ypres does have the strongest arms.
Lanky Ella and I sat opposite one another. The train commenced its journey. Ypres had managed to get everything in before departure. She was now trying to find room to stack the luggage securely. She was still doing so as the Shard approached in the distance. Ella broke the silence which had marked our train journey.
“I’m glad I ran into you, Vanessa. I’m in a bit of a quandary. Some might even upgrade it to a conundrum.”
“You did rather a bit more than run into me, Ella.”
“What? The bandage turban? That nurse did a decent enough job. You look fabulous, Vanessa. No matter what Ypres’s friend Said may say.” She paused for a while. “Do you know where we could discuss my quandary privately?”
I agreed with Lanky Ella. Like aircrafts, trains are the appropriate milieu for tulip-based conversation, although allowances can be made for bonds, but not stocks – that would be a tad crude. This was not the place for a quandary-based conversation. Especially if it ran the risk of being escalated into a conundrum. “I know just the place where we can go, Ella.” As I uttered those words, Ypres, panting in a controlled manner, had just finished securing the luggage. An instant later, before she could make it to her seat, we arrived at Paddington. We were in London.
Chapter V will be published in January 2016. Happy Holidays to all!