We arrive at the airport some time before midnight. It has been one of those days when so much has happened that you have problems comprehending that the morning and evening belong to the same day. Sitting half asleep at a crowded airport it feels as though we have spent a week in Kashgar rather than just two days.
According to our schedule we were to have caught a plane at 10.20, which had been cancelled. Dave says that sort of thing often happens in China. Then we were supposed to have taken off at midnight, but that plane has been delayed and is now due to leave at 12.30, if at all. We are all fed up. The prospect of arriving at our hotel in Urumqi at 3 in the morning and be off again at 8 for our final flight to Beijing is not enticing.
It was whilst waiting to board the plane that I caught sight of the two men. Only a glimpse, but that was enough. Their image is etched in my memory forever.
Their nationality was hard to determine, South American or possibly Armenian or even Jewish. They looked around 50 but something told me they might have been older; tall, long chiselled faces, narrow hooked noses, large dark eyes and longish black hair streaked with grey. Not unlike Fagin in the 1960s Oliver Twist film. The sort of features I have always found mysterious and attractive; so different from the stubby noses and innocent blue eyes of the people I grew up with. One was very tall, the other slightly shorter. Their long thin fingers laden with heavy silver rings, some with colourful stones; on the taller man's middle finger was what looked like an enormous ruby too big to be real, so perhaps it was just a red crystal... They were sitting on a bench by the window looking as cheesed off as everyone else, incongruous among holiday-clad North European tourists and Chinese business men in neat suits.
Who were those men? Artists, writers, magicians who had packed away their stage costumes and donned dark suits and long black coats instead? One thing was for sure; they looked poles apart from the grey brigade that travel the world in an effort to stave off old age.
I was not the only one who noticed them. Sue and Pat had also been wondering what sort of people they might be. Gwen said they were French, and that they were dealers in magic carpets. Where she had this from I do not know. Later on I mentioned the men to Thomas, wondering what he thought, but my dear old husband had no idea who I meant.
I didn't see the men getting on the plane, nor disembarking in Urumqi, so perhaps they weren't even real.
Strange though, how all the women in our group had noticed them, but none of the men...