Confessions of a Keepall


I hate long-haul travel. Why? Because whenever Chen jets off to Europe or the United States, I’m left languishing in her closet. From the top shelf, I can see her, so slender and graceful, packing her suitcases – those big ones with wheels, the ones that go in the hold. And it’s absolute torture! I try to console myself by remembering that she chose me for my elegance, for my supple Monogram canvas and my leather handles, but I pine away in her Beijing apartment until she returns.

This time, however, I heard her say that she is going to a trade show in Shanghai for two days. And I’ll be going with her! She and some of her employees are taking the high-speed train that will get them to Shanghai Hongqiao station just over five hours.

On Wednesday, when Chen came home from the office, she took off her shoes and climbed up on the teak ladder to retrieve me from my shelf. I perked up instantly, the grain of my canvas almost quivering with excitement… A lingerie pouch, a toilet bag, a pair of stilettos, that wonderful little black cocktail dress… It’ll be a bit of a squeeze. But I would do anything for Chen.

First thing next morning, we were on our way to Beijing South station. She, elegant as ever. Me, never in better shape. The bullet train for Shanghai was at the platform, and Chen’s colleagues were already waiting by the door of coach 2. The journey started well enough, with me in the overhead luggage rack, but I was soon to be disappointed. I had been so looking forward to seeing the scenery, but at nearly 200 miles an hour, I couldn’t see a thing.

I was so terrified by the train’s speed that I did not recover my composure until we were in the limousine which collected us from Hongqiao station. It drove us to the hotel in Pudong, a building towering 1,600 feet above the Huangpu River. I was dazzled by the interior design and dumbstruck by the elevator – a rocket launch is surely nothing by comparison.

On the 86th floor, a butler ushered us into our suite, putting me down right by the huge picture window. Suddenly, I felt dizzy. I hoped they wouldn’t leave me there… The butler must have sensed my discomfort, because next thing I knew I was in the walk-in wardrobe where he was arranging Chen’s things. Folded by his expert hands, I could at last relax while I mused on the words of the writer and traveler Ella Maillart: “I wanted to forget that we had inevitably to return home.”

Confessions of a Keepall Confessions of a Keepall

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