She’s dead. We’ve been together for so many years. Crossed so many borders together. Shacked up in so many hotel rooms. She’s been my home. My friend. My lifeline. And now she’s gone. Murdered. By the Americans.
I don’t remember where I acquired my 26in navy-blue Globe-Trotter suitcase. It’s been that long. University. My annual visit to the family in Poland. Marriage one. Job one. Every capital in Europe. The Hokkaido honeymoon. Mexico City after the earthquake. Dammit, that suitcase even went to Turkmenistan with me, and was with me when I witnessed the last public appearance of the dreaded Turkmenbashi. But do you know what the guy from Delta had the nerve to say to me when I held her lifeless body to his face and asked him to witness what they had done to her? He said: “Looks like you need a new one, anyway.” Not that Delta will pay for a replacement. Its policy on broken suitcases is to take into account every year of use, and to subtract accordingly. With my suitcase, it seemed to work out that I actually owed them money.
I lost it, too, with the guy behind the baggage counter at Gatwick, who had the gall to tell me to stop being so immature.
Immature! They had ripped off her latches, torn off her handle, taped her up like a serial-killer’s corpse, and I was being immature for complaining about it. What you should do, he spelt out in a creepily imported EU accent – German, I think – was to fill in the form and take it to Delta. Though I was probably better off claiming it on my travel insurance. You do have travel insurance, don’t you, he smirked.
Actually, I know exactly who did it. It was the security oafs at Atlanta airport, where I’d switched planes on the horrendous Delta journey from Mexico. My dead suitcase was now covered in fascistic Eagle tape, informing me that it had been “Inspected by the US Department of Homeland Security”. If the Eagle tape hadn’t held her together, I wouldn’t have been able to bring her home at all.
The German on the baggage counter had never heard of Globe-Trotter. Vot dit it look like, he interrogated. Like a suitcase, I snapped back. Blue. With a handle. Dit it haff veels? No, it did not have wheels. It was a Globe-Trotter. Winston Churchill used one as his dispatch case when he was chancellor of the exchequer. The Queen went on her honeymoon with a set of them. Wheels belong on a pram. Not on a suitcase.
Vot vas in it? Clothes. Sandals. Two Frisbees. And quite a few books. Books?! His face lit up to a lighter shade of Teutonic grey. Det’s propably vot dey ver hafter. It seems that books show up on airport security equipment as suspiciously impenetrable black rectangles. So the two whoppers I had acquired in Peru on the baroque churches of Cuzco must have looked like enough Semtex to take out the entire western United States.
There were times when a battered suitcase without wheels, and some large books on baroque art, might have added up to a perfectly normal, civilised package. But not today. Not in America.