The air was warm and stale, and it felt like the whole world was dirty and dusty. A lot of work gets done at that time of day. People are just starting to wear out and tire down, but are still focused on what they’re doing. It’s too late for a last cup of coffee, and not late enough to quit work and think about home and dinner.
I looked out the window. The land below was thinly developed and mostly rural, yet the roadways were already packed with fast moving cars – those commuters that arrive early to leave early. Each has an individual story, but many of them despise the rush hour with deep passion. Like the office workers, I missed being home. I too would get back tonight, but not until long after they had forgotten their workday, their commute, their evening-meal, and all the world outside.
Even though the crew will take care of the ship, I also will have plenty of work after we arrive. After they have scrubbed, stowed, secured, and taken their leave, I will lock the building and the gates. Alone, I’ll feel an urgency to get my own work done. There’s a pleasant family grocery store on my way from the airfield. Later, I will open my door, and smell the stillness of an air-conditioned suite that’s been nicely cleaned, but without being lived in. I will leave my suitcase behind, just inside, as I shut the lock. I’ll bring my food sack to the kitchen and slice onions and mushrooms. They’ll cook slowly in olive oil, chilli, garlic, and finally, I’ll whisk in some cream. The flat will take on life as life takes place inside it. I’ll eat slowly with French bread and a practical (inexpensive) but flavorful wine recommended by the fantastically long-bearded and dramatically arm-waving shopkeeper. Many people would watch TV to stave off loneliness, but I will be almost overwhelmed just from the busy noise of my thoughts.
I left my reverie and went back to my paperwork. The clock measured the passage of time, but I took no note of it. At some point Wazn requested food in his inimitably feline way: his words were so unintelligible, and yet his intent so unmistakable. I looked out the window again. We were still over roads bordering fields. The vehicles below were tightly packed and moving slowly. The cool of evening had come and the feeling of dirt and dust was gone. There was a new freshness in the air.
I fed Wazn, and put away my papers. I didn’t want to miss the sunset. I love to watch the progression of colors, especially how at its height we pass through a different mood every second. Now, the afternoon softens. The sky becomes deep. The sunset bursts. Dull pastels appear and then ignite, brightening into fiery orange and pink. Orange becomes fierce yellow and glowing magenta. Then a corner is turned, and the hot colors cool to a heavy pink. The magenta darkens to deep maroon. Purples slide to violets. The first star appears. Violet fades to black. Stars appear in pairs, dozens, scores, and then it is night.
A parallel transformation takes place on the ground below. The tired landscape leaves behind the drabs and duns of the afternoon and takes on deeper, fresher blues and greens. The lights of the roadways are augmented by more and more city lights. Eventually the land below is pitch black, but illuminated with the delicate lace jewelry of millions of tiny lights.
Even from the sky, even in the dark, the familiar landmarks of home came into view. We came in low over our own field. As we left the last road behind something caught my eye. Three identical black pickups with their lights on were parked on the side of the road next to the perimeter fence. As I looked back, they pulled onto the road in formation, and accelerated towards the city. They struck me as a bit out of place, but I see stranger things all the time. “Actually,” I thought out loud, “I should probably mention odd things along these lines to Franchomme.”
Wazn looked up at me when he heard me speak, and that reminded me to get him ready to disembark.