The aircraft lands at Algiers.
Or does it? Perhaps it lands in Paris. Or Oran.
I try and remember whether the plane rattles – The Air Algerie craft rattles down to earth, staff smiling, whereas Air France glides out of gritty Manchester and into stylish Paris with a haughtiness needlessly in excess of substance – unnecessarily chic yet cold. Even in winter, Africa is warm.
But too many similar experiences of late-night-early-morning-half-asleep travel blur together, their mental images entering soft focus in the grainy light of dawn (or is it dusk?). A focus more blurred after a glass of wine and a rub of barely-open aircraft-dry eyes smudged by scratched irritation. Now I know why they call these flights ‘red-eye’.
Anyhow, the aircraft rattles or glides to Earth somewhere in France or Algeria. It barely matters. Though, at the same time, it does not land at all.
For, writing in retrospect, such mental recollections are interrupted by a dusky cat of the current moment traversing the present horizon of red cliff and blue ocean: I’m not in an aircraft at all, but sat in my hotel looking out across the Meditteranean’s African border. The surrounding babble of Arabic voices lyrically blends into the wintry blue sea.
The dreamy, sleep-deprived, landing, then, must be Algerian.
The French landing is lost to history, not that it ever wished to be a part of history in the first place. Perhaps all humans experience partial dementia before we age: A dementia of beginning unable to remember everything – a continuum from difficulty recounting details to no idea of time or place at all, as the millions of lights in the mind’s territory slowly extinguish, one by one.
Dementia aside, Algeria is different because it is not so different. There is no West African noise. There is only quiet. And space. And sea. Oh, and Algerian wine. Somehow that is not a contradiction in terms. Algeria ebbs into the Mediterranean and, at this point, seems as much a part of Mediterranea as France or Spain.
I hope that this is not (yet on some level I know that it is) unnecessarily culturally essentialist.