Excerpt from LoveSexTravelMusik
Towards the end of the flight I think, when I arrive tonight, I want to find our home ransacked. I want to find our stinking bins emptied out into the front garden and your dirty washing tipped into the snow by two fat men in balaclavas. I think, I’d like to stand on the street, hands streaking my cheeks, in front of neighbours who don’t yet know the news. I could run inside, followed by rubberneckers, and open my wardrobe. There I’d find my shirts shredded, my fingers buried in the damage as I held the stringy leftovers close. I could open your wardrobe. See what you’d left behind.
The plane sinks downwards, swerves, and the headline is I’m still here. I don’t get sucked into the air vents above my head or down into the engines below. Even though right now I’m last night’s cheap wine, last night’s slip on the ice, though my head is a washing machine with a rock in it, they say I’ve been keeping to my schedule perfectly. Carrying out plans made when I was another man. In the circumstances, that sounds unlikely. But then, they say we’re flying here, and how likely is that? Hundreds of us, all easing so comfortably onwards, smooth breaststroke through clouds, London to Glasgow in under an hour. Most of us have forgotten we’re not secure. We’re considering buying discounted aftershave. But when it’s offered up, I can’t make my mind up about the Allure — I’ve not slept in a week and I’m leaking out through my pores. Maybe my skin is my only remaining organ — it’s the only one I can see — and if it’s all I have, then maybe I shouldn’t swamp it in chemicals.
I’ve thought for too long. The duty free floats past.
The pilot is talking about speed. The man next to me is beyond wasted.
The man says he’s coming home too. He’s singing, Enjoy yourself, enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think, bumping his head against the seat in front with every other slurred word. This song has only two lines so he has to keep repeating them. Eventually he breaks off to ask if I’m taking the piss. If I’ve got a problem. To tell the air hostess that this miserable dickhead won’t sing along, and it’s a very easy song, and we all have fucking problems you know. I can’t talk to him, or anyone. I’m about to ask the man to breathe on me, to get me drunk in one toxic blast, but the air hostess cuts in. Stop bothering the nice man, she says. He’s not being unreasonable. I smile at her, cross my legs and look out of the window. It’s getting dark out there in space. Soon, we won’t be able to see anything.
I turn back, watching the air hostess slide through the aisle, talking behind her hand to a male colleague as she moves. He glances my way and shakes his head as if to say, There’s always one. He gives me that aw mate smile I’ve had a lot this week, and he answers the air hostess in a whisper. Then he turns and refills his trolley while she whispers into the intercom. All this time she’s eyeing me as if I’m some bone-skinny cat with rescue-me eyes and three legs and I’m thinking, I haven’t even done anything. I’ve been burgled in my sleep. I watch her lips move and fill in the sounds like I know what they are. Like I’ve ordered her to make them. She’s saying, Derek, remember to rip the radiators from the walls and hurl the computer through the window. But do it with love. He’s still in the forgiveness stage. They can arrange that you know, even at short notice. Customer satisfaction is everything. They can find a specialist, be with you quicker than a plumber. And you don’t even have to be in when they call.
The man is snoring now and I’m thinking I’ll be on the floor tonight. Before this trip, I slept on the couch — Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. The bed lay stripped, untouched. With any luck, neither will exist any more.
The plane is making its final descent. Inside, only the reading lights remain, little alien beams in the black, and outside, those clouds have become thousands of laminated houses in the distance. The houses are surrounded by laminated fields with laminated hedges encasing them in neat laminated squares. Everything is clean and in order.
As we lurch downwards again, the air hostess comes to check we have our seat belts on properly, our iPods and iPads turned off. There’s a shake somewhere in the belly of our machine as she walks by, but this woman has seen everything. She looks at me saying, You’re going to be just fine, and right then I want to pull her towards me and lick the make-up right off her face. She must know what I’m thinking because she leans over and gives my hand a light squeeze, her warmth fizzing up my sleeve, down through the buttons of my shirt and into my jeans. I’m surprised I’m capable of feeling this, and wonder what else I’m capable of. It’s getting rockier now. The plane shudders and jolts, waking up my man who begins to sing again. IT’S LATER THAN YOU THINK! he spits, at no one.
As he’s singing, beating the chair with his palm and trying to rouse a few supporters, I tidy my things away into my rucksack, thinking, after this journey ends I will arrive at the airport, and no one will meet me. I’ll stride through the airport lounge to baggage reclaim. The assassins will work while I’m waiting for my suitcase to drop onto the belt. They’re professionals. As they shatter the light bulbs we bought, I’ll get healthy food in for dinner from the airport mini-supermarket, maybe think about repairing the bike that’s been rusting in the hallway, all this as I choose between near-identical bundles of asparagus.
While I wheel my suitcase to the taxi pick-up point they’ll be daubing our walls with graffiti, the filthy insults in big letters, primary colours, in thick block characters. As the taxi heads out onto the motorway, our furniture will be chopped up and put through the grinder. They’ll be efficient, these men. Their stomachs will be straining to burst out of their skins. By the time the taxi pulls off the main road and onto our street they’ll already be halfway to the next job, a warm glow in their chests and several piles of sawdust in every room. They’ll tell dirty jokes as they leave, inflate as they walk, then at the end of their shift they’ll go home to get a hard-earned treat from their loyal wives. Everyone has a wife. I notice that now. And when I put the key in our lock I’ll find it smashed.
The door will swing open, I’ll stand in the hallway and hold myself in. Maybe I’ll stand there for hours while friends queue up on the doorstep to touch my shoulders and tell me there’s nothing I could have done. I’ll not scream or punch the floor. They’ll say my spine is still so straight, my gaze is like a lighthouse, they can’t believe it, and I’ll nod and tell them I know. I’ll be thinking, thank God they burned our filing cabinets. Now I won’t have to divide the paperwork. Then I’ll pace through our hallway, coat still zipped up, clocking the dirty bootprints in our bedroom, the vomit in the sink, the globs of mud in the bath. I’ll notice the bed is gone, already broken up and sold on in parts, and I’ll birth a secret smile, letting it out through one of the broken windows. My friends will be looking elsewhere.