For the next three days, George lived in the hotel at the airport. Mr Waddington spoke to them several times: they met in a large room on the upper floor of the arrivals lounge, with a barrage of press photographers and journalists present. The photographers were instructed not to take pictures of the friends and relatives, and the journalists were told not to interview them. They mostly respected these rules. George appreciated the journalists’ presence: they shouted out questions at Mr Waddington, which often surprised him or annoyed him. But the story stayed the same: there was no news. No trace of XY375; no trace of its black box.
George lived these days like he was in a dream. He’d go to brush his teeth, and then realize that he’d been standing for fifteen minutes in front of the bathroom mirror, a toothbrush in his hand, unmoving. His mobile was clogged with unanswered calls and unread texts. Sometimes he ate ravenously, shovelling food in, and then he would go for hours without eating or drinking. At night he would lie in bed, motionless, unthinking, still and silent, but not asleep. One day, a counsellor asked him how he felt: George answered that he didn’t know. On the fourth day, when he left his room to go to breakfast, he stumbled into a priest walking along the corridor. The priest recognised him. He looked at George closely and then told him:
‘Go home, son. There’s no point in you staying here’.
George stared at him for a few moments, not saying anything. Then he went back to his room, gathered his few belongings into a plastic bag, and left the airport. He was no longer a man waiting for his girlfriend.