Yesterday night we sat together but apart, like we always do, on the sofa. Sitting between us was a small dog. It sits with one paw on Mr Manbag’s right knee, staking his claim, and watches everything he does, head cocked to one side looking up at his face and then back again at his laptop screen. He watches Mr Manbag as he types, his fingers darting over the dirty grey keys like a hundred butterflies fluttering their wings. The dog is camouflaged against our black sofa so there are times when I forget that he’s there, silently presiding over Mr Manbag. When I remember that he’s there I feel guilty but then I will forget again after a moment or two, caught up in what I am doing.
I woke this morning far too early. It was light but I had not slept well. The dog had taken away my sense of calm and well being so I had slept fitfully and late, even though I knew I needed to get up early. I dress in the other room and leave him under the teal green duvet cover, like a castaway drifting on an endless ocean. The taxi driver waves up at the window as I am putting on my make-up; he’s early – they always are. I return to Robinson Crusoe in the next room and kiss him on the beardless part of his cheek. It’s soft and all the lines are gone from his eyes in the morning light.
An hour’s flight is all the hassle of flying without any of the benefits. It seems we’ve barely taken off and we’re landing again and I have to switch off my phone and my iPod and stare out of the window to the lush green countryside below me. The glamour of travelling for work has long faded so I just wait.
I am the only woman in the meeting and I am the only one who doesn’t speak German. They tell me what they’re talking about when they talk German and I know it is not a conversation that I would be involved in but I still feel isolated. When they speak in English I feel part of the group, even if they are sounding their problems to me; I am the face of finance to them so I know this is not personal.
We finish well ahead of time so I sit in their office picking up bits and bobs on my email. I use the ladies loo and could easily believe that there are no women in this office – there is only one cubicle and the toilet paper is still folded to a point, just like the cleaners left it last night.
Back at the airport I have time to spare and my laptop battery is dead. I have a late lunch, ordering the food in my very poor German. They don’t seem to mind. I always thought that continental Europeans would be offended if you used the wrong tense or gender or form of address but they always seem very forgiving. The pizza I order is very salty. I don’t know how to tell them that so I ask for the bill instead. I like that the German word for bill is rechnung which sounds like reckoning which sounds vaguely sinister.
I stop in the duty free shop to buy wine and chocolates for Mr Manbag. I joke that I have bought Blue Nun and Toffifee, just because they are not what he asked for. I linger over the gin display, even though they have nothing special there. I have time to kill and can only do so much work on my phone.
There’s a small cafe round at the gate so I start my flight ritual early. Instead of champagne, though, it’s sparkling wine. It’s not bad. Then I have a cup of tea with the over-creamy milk from those little plastic pots in it and a chocolate bar to spare me from the food on the flight. The hands on my watch move ever slower. The flight to London before mine comes and goes and I wish I was on it.
My plane boards and the flight passes without event. It’s a little bumpy but it’s over so quickly. Heathrow is a monster of an airport that it feels like we walk the last ten miles or so from the plane to the terminal. My bag is heavy; my laptop is hefty enough without the wine and chocolates weighing me down. The taxi driver is waiting for me and I slip into the back of his Mercedes glad to be on my way home.
I shower and cook dinner for one. He’s out tonight and I don’t know if the black dog is with him or patiently waiting for him behind the front door. I hope it isn’t, for his sake. Not all dogs are man's best friend.