The day starts with you in front of a tube station in south London. You and your traveling partner, who has really started to get on your nerves recently, as the two of you nickel and dimed (euroed and franked) your way across certain parts of Europe for the past month. The hostels and camping had turned weary, tired, every night the beds less comfortable and home further away. It is the twenty-first of May, the day of your return flight to America. The plan is to take the tube to Heathrow airport, which for the both of you costs three more pounds than you can scrape together. You knew those last few pints the evening before had been a bad idea. Your last night abroad had been a beer filled celebration, but it was all a blur now.
It is eight in the morning, the bustle of a weekday London morning, the entrance to the London Underground a river of umbrellas and raincoats. Did I mention the rain? The both of you look the part of the greasy vagrant, unshaven backpackers begging money so you could catch the train to the airport. In half an hour you’d only scraped up a few schillings. Then one business-dressed lady stopped for a moment, having a bit of a problem closing her umbrella. Excuse me, you say. Do you have extra money so that we can make it to the airport and get home to America? After she manages to close her umbrella she turns to the two of you and has a long disappointed look at you. So you’ll be leaving the country then, she asks. She agrees to give you money, all three pounds that you need. But before she hands it over, she makes you promise that you wouldn’t return to Britain. Ever.
So you purchase your fare and take the tube to Heathrow. On the map it looks like Heathrow is very close. Actually it feels hours away. Much like London, the train ride seems to go on forever. At Heathrow you stand in line for an hour at check-in. You study your tickets about fifty times while you wait. Nonstop, London to San Francisco, May 21st. You get to the counter and show the lady your tickets, relieved to have finally made it through all the obstacles, to verge so close to your homecoming. Then she tells you that your flight isn’t until tomorrow.
The 21st of May, you say.
Yes, today is the 20th.