I’ve got a leaner on my left.
Her bobbing head softly nods my way and I can’t help but wonder if she’ll be using me as a pillow by the end of the flight.
“Ladies and …smelman..the sitbelt light is on your above yinnit.” I have no idea what the flight attendant is saying. I feel like I should.
Something is up in the row ahead across the aisle. I think they’ve taken E or Ex or whatever the kids are calling it these days. The guy keeps taking his shirt off and clenching his jaw. He’s gnawed through the top of a plastic cup until his lip is almost bloody. His girlfriend is high too. High enough not to really care, but not high enough to stop trying to mediate with the attendants.
“He’s ok.. I don’t know what’s going on with him..” But she has an irrepressible smirk on her face and is rubbing the chemical sweat off her palms into her brand new Lulu Lemons. I know they’re new because she has talked about it for the last hour. That and her breast implants, which are, even from my vantage point, pretty impressive.
“Sir you are going to have to put your shirt back on now. You’re disrupting the passengers.”
“C’mon Todd, please.. just for a while longer..c’mon Todd…” She is trying not to break into laughter.
The attendants look at each other with expressions that say “You have got to be freaking kidding me” and “Seriously” all mixed in with a dash of “There’s one on every flight..”
I have a momentary pang for them. Their deceptively crisp uniforms and sock buns; makeup pristinely done in colourful palettes, and perfume that smells like warm body and misted hairspray.
This particular smell reminds me of my friend Liz’s flat about 15 years ago. We’d always arrive at her place about an hour after she’d showered and done her hair. The heat of the hair dryer would still be radiating from the old ceramic tiles on her bathroom wall. I’d already be pleasantly buzzed from having walked through the haze of a smouldering joint in her living room; maybe from slugging back a sloppy group shot of bourbon.
Something about that smell.. the whiskey mingling with the hairspray and the heat; the high note of pot. Who knows. It was its own aromatic diffuser. We’d sit for hours in that cloud playing video games like Tekken and Zelda, occasionally breaking for the piano and show tunes; always punctuating with shots of Jack; maybe another joint if we were lucky.
“Sir. Shirt. Now.”
I snap out of Liz’s apartment and glance over at Todd in his full drug-glazed-haze. He’s standing now, drumming on the tops of two other rows of seats, grinding his teeth with a wide grin on his face.
“Yeah. Ok. Sorry. It’s just.. it’s really hot in here.”
More laughter from his girlfriend.
I shake my head and feel old.
The attendant bristles.
“Now. Or you will be detained on landing.”
“Ok. But it’s hot in here, right?” He is trying to find the hole in the shirt for his head. The attendant looks like she’s going to punch him.
I’d be down with that, I think sleepily.
The weighted roll of the food trolley adds a new dimension to negotiations.
I really want to watch the scene but feel like I shouldn’t. I make myself comfortable and plug in the headset to listen to a radio playlist I’m sure is from 1989.
Todd is saying something and trying not to laugh.
The attendant looks over her shoulder at the Trolley Guy with obvious frustration.
A man 2 rows down has decided that this is the only time he can go pee.
And just like that, 1460 km in to the trip, like a kid straining badly to stay up and see the end of the movie, I fall fast asleep.
When I wake up they’re announcing the descent.
I look around to see what I missed, but Todd is sitting demurely in his seat and not stuffed into the overhead compartment as I thought might be the case.
“You slept through the meal..did you want anything?” The attendant’s makeup is still perfect.
“No. I’m ok.” Actually, I’m dying to find out what the hell happened but don’t want to ask just in case I’m not supposed to. Really, what’s the protocol around plane drama? Are you allowed to talk about it after it’s happened? Did they taser him? Can you taser someone at 30,000 ft?
“Um.. actually.. some water would be great.”
She flitters off busily towards the front of the plane.
For the first time in hours I look to my left. Turns out I’ve been sleeping on the folds of my neighbour’s ample forearm.
“Oh I am so sorry. I am totally sorry – “
The Leaner looks me over and then snorts derisively before going back to the same page of her in-flight magazine that I could have sworn she had open at take-off. She licks her finger and noisily snaps the page over. I see a picture of fresh-water pearls and some expensive face cream before I’m handed my water like it’s a kind of baton as the attendant swoops past.
And then it’s tables and seats up, popping ears, and a rumbling roar right through my gut as we screech to a halt, 3 hours into the future.
My day is just about to begin.