Sick with tiredness, I sat in the departure lounge, across and one seat over from Bridget. She was wearing a lilac-coloured velour tracksuit, a pristine pair of pink and white runners and a mauve raincoat. Mauve is my favourite colour, though I'd never think to say that if someone were to ask me. Bridget and I have the same colour hair, though hers was thinning slightly. Casting Crème Gloss 645 Amber. It goes well with pink tones.
I knew her name was Bridget because she had it on a laminated card hanging from a lanyard around her neck. BRIDGET Marian Pilgrimages. She was with her daughter, a mirror image in blonde and baby blue. She didn't have a card, or if she did she wasn't wearing it. None of the other pilgrims were. But you could tell. There was an air of silent hysteria about the place that had more to it than the unreasonably early hour.
The women looked like Bridget. Neat and resilient. Like women who had lost their men and with it found their purpose. They were in the company of other women; moderate friends or dutiful middle-aged daughters. Mothers, all of them. Not one of them a nun. The men, to a man, looked like men who've never had anyone but their mothers. Their faces florid, their trousers too short, scrofulous creatures with miraculous medals pinned to their raincoats and rosary beads twined around their red chapped knuckles. And they all seemed to be alone. Men like that frighten me. I don't know what to do with them.
Bridget caught me staring at her. My face burned red and I looked away, willing Andrew to return with the coffee so that I would have something to hold and someone to talk to. My gaze snagged on a discarded toenail sitting on the cushion of the chair beside Bridget and my gorge rose in response. Andrew arrived with the coffee but before I could point the toenail out to him someone came and sat on it. I wondered then what I was sitting on. I thought of the priests we'd stood behind in the queue for the baggage drop, rocking on their heels in their socks and sandals, and I imagined their yellowed toenails curling into the callused flesh of their toes. I flaked the almonds from my croissant with a fingertip and chewed.
Sick with tiredness and what I half thought might be the promise of something growing in my womb but am now assured is a virus wreaking havoc in my inner ear, I boarded the plane. We were, all of us, very quiet. A thick fog kept us grounded for some two hours and I almost expected to hear someone lead a prayer for our safe departure. But there was nothing to be heard but resignation, and the anxiety of a hundred and fifty seven people listening out for four hundred metres of visibility.