To say that Rob spent today packing for her flight home to Toronto would be to miss entirely what Rob really did.
She took care of things; she expressed her love and her commitment and her faith and hope, in a dozen little things that kept her busy, along with her packing, throughout the day. She watered the lavender plants that she had bought, that were drying out in the planters along either side of the big french living room windows. She sewed a button onto one of my shirts. She drew up lists, with reminders and admonitions: ‘Please call ADT (the security company) re GATE CODE and PASSWORD. You will soon be alone at this big property, so it is very important to me that ADT can get here if they are needed.’ She called Kathy about the statutory letter that she and Gareth have agreed to write, attesting to our relationship (Eve, yesterday, wrote the sweetest, most loving and generous letter Rob and I could possibly have imagined); she sent me a parting email, saying she might be leaving but her love remained behind; she took care to hand over her car keys, her Garmin, to tell me where she had left her bank card. She chased me up over my boarding passes and travel itineraries, and carefully stowed away in her luggage the weighty pack of documents, photos, and photocopies that will accompany the application for Canadian residence that she will submit when she gets back to Canada. She posed for final photographs: Rob, pointing to the triptych of pictures she has hung in the newly painted guest bathroom; Rob, in the hallway, with the Congolese cloth she bought in Rosebank hanging against the terracotta wall she had painted; Rob, in the kitchen, with my photo of Tuscan trees, the Carol Boyes towel hooks and the steel utensils hanging from the rail on the chartreuse walls whose colour she had chosen. She finished up; she handed over; she took every care possible about everything imaginable. This was not a list of chores completed; it was a labour and a sign and embodiment of love.
We left for the airport just after four, hoping to beat the traffic; but the roads were like one big constipated intestine, the traffic moving and stopping, pulsing and bulging, all the way to OR Tambo – one-and-half hours for a thirty minute journey. We passed the soon-to-be-completed structures of the Gautrain: when we come back together from the US and Canada, in August, we promised ourselves, we would take the train and show the finger to the traffic. We got to the airport, eventually, around a quarter to six. I dropped her off, and parked the Landy; Rob checked in; we found our way to the Intercontinental Hotel for a glass of wine and something to eat. We chatted away, contentedly enough, only occasionally reflecting on the months ahead, and the months behind us. ‘I’ll see you in Toronto,’ I said.
And then, at the gate, we hugged and kissed, and said our farewells. I felt her soft flesh, her warmth, heard her sweet words of goodbye and remembrance.
Tomorrow morning, she will wake above Frankfurt. I will wake alone, in this big house, for the first time since we moved in together – how many weeks ago?
When I got home, a short while back, I went through to the kitchen to get some water. I picked up a glass from next to the sink – it was rimmed with the smudge of Rob’s red lipstick.