I enter the cupboard under the stairs and flick the switch. There is that familiar smell, a slight mustiness. It sits there on the floor, waiting, exactly as I knew it would. It is always there. Quiet, passive, expecting, it somehow challenges me. It teases me – what have I been doing? Where have I been? So much wasted time. Fool.
I study the case, refreshing my memory, my breathing shallow. I have always felt that it appreciates me, that it senses me. We are less when apart from each other, we have travelled together for well over two decades. Disrespectfully I store it here, then for whatever reason the time comes around and our intermittent friendship is renewed.
There is the ornate worn brass on the corner. A kind of ridiculous fleur-de-lis that somehow works against the dark redness of the leather. I bend down and gently stroke at the dust with the back of my index finger. I remember admiring it in the soft light of a Florence evening, seeing distorted fragments of my reflections in the burnished metal as I knelt on the floor to unlock the lid. Memories flood back, I hear voices, animated Italian from the street outside.
The key is, as always, loosely tied to the handle with an old shoelace. The oversized brass lock that I found in a cobblers shop in a Parisian alley, a flamboyant adornment that suits the bag. It makes me smile.
I remember sitting on the suitcase at the back of a small river taxi on Lake Dal, watching the houseboats slip past and the jetty receding behind me into the evening. Images of the dark waters of Kashmir wash around my mind and blend into warm evenings in hilltop villages of Provence. Memories of endless hotel rooms, heat and rain, disappointments and expectation. Waiting at luggage belts at airports, smiling at the spectacle of the arrival of my always uniquely identifiable bag amongst the sea of anonymous dark plastic.
A touch of class? A foible? Either way it is always a part of my travels.
“Hello. That time again.”
I stand up and respectfully pull the old case out. I turn out the light behind me.
That time again indeed.