Friday, October 14, 2005

Lust at 30,000 feet

WELL! And here I thought all of you were better than that....!

I mean, there WERE a few of you. Raechel donated blood the other day.

Twenty-three other people wrote and said “thanks, I’ll take a taxi from now on, if I’ve had too much to drink -- appreciate the reminder and thank you for your honesty.”

Two true friends, Teri and Cat, wrote to remind me that all is forgiven, in this life and the next. Thanks for that also, it’s a comfort.

BUT, the overwhelming response has been this: “E, we love your writing. Are you going to write a book?!?!?! It’s so much fun to read about all your adventures, what with the police in the UK, and things in South Africa, and all about the crime and the birds and the wild animals and the hijackings and all of it. So very VERY exciting. But ... we WANT more SEX!”

Ladies (and gents), I am shocked. Shocked. Has it all come down to this?

Apparently, yes.

So, I guess I’m going to have to entertain you. But be warned, it’s pretty tame. Mr. D has acquired copyright protection for all his tricks, so can’t divulge any of that. Sorry about that, Moira, since you asked. But your speculations ARE correct.

I'm afraid that you’ll just have to be amused by my near misses. First up, the flight back to Jo’burg.

Well, what could have possibly happened... that I could write about? I sat down in the plane, in my window seat. FINALLY, I got a window seat! Maybe because I was NOT flying with Mr. D and Miss T? Such selfish pleasures. I would be able to lean against the window and SLEEP, perhaps SLEEP, at last. First time in ages. Not like my time in the ‘slammer’, those fabulous four hours in Woking, where I refused to even SIT down. Not like my last night in the UK, worrying about whether I’d be jailed the next morning, or fined £5000, or what? No, I could sleep, maybe, this evening, this night, on the plane.

I pulled out my “Learn Afrikaans” book and my CD player and snuggled down to wait for takeoff and then dinner. My two seat mates stifled snorts.

“You don’t HAVE to learn that, you know,” said an older woman, on the aisle. “I mean, English is the main language in South Africa. Afrikaans is just truly, TRULY not necessary. Besides, there are eleven official languages in South Africa. Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho, and so on.”

“Yeah, yes, I know that, but thank you very much. I just enjoy studying languages, really.” I replied. “I took French and Russian in high school, then French in college and more or less continued it up until now, plus also a year of German at university. I like a challenge. And a good friend of mine, his first language is Afrikaans. So I thought it would be fun to try.”

“Well, then, if it’s for fun. Why not?” We chatted a little. Her kids, like mine, were spread all over the planet. Hers: Australia, England, New Zealand. Mine: England, US, South Africa. We commiserated, then settled down for the flight.

But the guy between us was reading over my shoulder and at the same time, trying to choke back his laughter.

“Goeiemore, Meneer. Hoe gaan dit met u?,” I read, silently. (“Good morning, sir, how are you?”) My Dialogue Number One was obviously incredibly stupid and entertaining for a native Afrikaans speaker.

“So, is this easy for you?,” I asked him.

“Easy! Hah, ja! Are you just beginning?” This strapping Boer farm boy couldn’t conceal his amusement.

“Well, yes, I am. Is this your own tongue? What you spoke growing up?”

“Sure, ja. Good luck.” He laughed again. He was sweet, and had a very strong Afrikaans accent.

“Thanks, m’dear. Are you going home? Are you from South Africa?” I couldn’t resist inquiring.

“Sure, ja, I’ve been living and working in Ireland for the last three years. Just going home now. Finally. At last.”

“Will you be going back to Ireland later?”

“Nee. Never. I’m going home now.” He stared at his hands.

And he rubbed his hands together. Over and over. Big hands. He was a big, tall farm boy. Strong, really handsome. They ALL are handsome, here, ladies. You’d better come visit and see for yourself. This guy was going home to sunshine, to his land, and to his family.

Our plane taxied out to the runway. I was mentally doing the Dialogue One exercises, and out of the corner of my eye, watching my seat mate stare at his hands.

We took off. He rubbed his hands together, again ... again.... again. Then, as we climbed into the sky, he sank back into his seat. Relaxed now, maybe? Relieved? Poor baby. He must have been tense about the takeoff.

We had dinner. We watched movies (me, “The Interpreter.”, with Nicole Kidman, about Africa. How appropriate!) I shortly after decided to pursue the sleep that had been eluding me for months and months, and curled up in my seat to snooze. I was conscious of the fact that this big farm guy next to me couldn’t, wouldn’t possibly ever get comfortable in the middle seat. I felt guilty -- that’s the seat where I’m usually tortured, flying between Mr. D and Miss T. My farm lad squirmed around a lot, trying to find a restful position. He tried to stretch his long legs out in front of him, but he didn’t settle down. Because he just couldn’t fit, quite honestly. I surreptitiously folded up the arm rest between us, in order to give him (and me) some more room to spread out in.

At about two am, I woke up. Gosh! I HAD been sleeping! Surprise! O, joy! But the plane was bouncing all around in major MAJOR major turbulence. I turned on the tv’s map channel. Just approaching the equator now, flying over the Democratic Republic of Congo. Past Kinshasa, Bandundu, Mbuji-Mayi. Well, thunderstorms would be normal here. Looked out the window. I could see lightning flashing, and massive thunderheads all around. The night sky lit up. A thick soft cotton-wool carpet of clouds was illuminated far below. Flashes of lightning popped here and there, muted and dimmed, looking like a torch beam playing under a blanket, perhaps. Here... there... again there... again... again.... It was spectacular. And above us, beautiful stars, brilliant, shining still, above the storm below. It was hard to believe that we were way up here, so far above the weather.

And then all of a sudden, we were flying directly into a pile of clouds. All the way up here.

You can’t imagine the jouncing. I closed my eyes, trying to sleep again, pretending to sleep. Up! Down! Down again, more and more. Up, up, bounce! UP!!! My Boer friend, poor thing, was shifting in his seat, wringing his hands. All the plane’s lights were off, now. Dark, except for the lightning, which was exploding all around us.

Suddenly, the plane bounced up really violently. I couldn’t help it; my eyes popped open and I found myself staring into his terrified eyes in the lightning’s brilliant glare. Eyes big as saucers. Both of us. I grabbed... well, his muscled thigh, actually, since I’d thoughtfully put up the arm rest between us. We looked at each other for a moment.. and another long moment... and... then I smiled, loosened my grip on his leg, and turned away, toward the window. And tried, again, to go back to sleep.

I mean, really. What were the alternatives? Could have invited him back to the loo for initiation into the Mile High Club, but hey, I’m not a member myself. Although it might have calmed him down and distracted him. But he seemed way too preoccupied to be much fun. And besides, the “seat belts” sign was on.... and you know me, I like to follow the rules most of the time. So I worked on my “sleeping” plan instead. Successfully. It was truly restful, being bounced to sleep at 30,000 feet. So things CAN go well! In a controlled, sensible, nice way. I can pretend to be normal, and do things like normal people do things.

But I just do lovvvvve turbulence!

We landed in Jo’burg on time, a little early in fact.

As we touched down, he wiped his eyes. Brushed tears away, actually, from both eyes. He hid his face in his big hands and sighed deeply.

I said, “Hey, man. You okay? You glad to be here?”

“Ja. Ja.... ja,werklik....” or something like that. “Yes, yes, ...yes, really....”

“Will you ever go back to Ireland?”

He sat up straighter, and looked at me. “I will never fly again. Never. Ever again. Never.”

My God. Was it me? Or was it the weather? Poor guy.

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