Oblivion or Bust: Part Two Chapter One
Departing from Melbourne to Bangkok on the cheapest flight he could find David hunched down into his seat. The noise of the other passengers created an annoying din; obstreperous children were running amok in the aisles and the toilets; old women draped in black shawls were holding loud conversations across the cabin while young women whined, opening and closing and opening and slamming closed the overhead compartments. Huddles of men - jamming the aisles, coughed and wheezed between cigarettes lit one off another. 'Pinnng' NON IL FUMARE the little illuminated sign above his seat glowed red. So much for the Ban on smoking cigarettes, in Aussie airspace. The crew suddenly appeared; went rapidly through the life-jacket performance and vanished behind the galley curtains after reiterating the 'no smoking' policy through a fug of smoke.
Oblivious time elapsed.
|Patpong Road Bangkok © P.Grice'95|
Fumbling with the complimentary earphones and mooching through his pockets for his own cigarettes…why not? He came across the divorce papers his wife had given him - $500.00 worth of do-it-yourself grief. For a moment David pondered the simplicity of his doom, then slumped down further into the narrow confines of the seat.
The rudimentary ergonomics of the complimentary earphones pinched at his ears. Searching in frustration through the channels of music he was about to snatch the earphones off his head when he came across the first few bars of Tomaso Albinoni's Adagio in G minor. That's more like it he thought. Whilst David adjusted his earphones the Captain made a brief announcement, which David failed to comprehend. Shortly after, the aisle swelled on David's side of the cabin with rude activity as the cabin lights dimmed and a gibbering throng fussed around the little portals leaning shamelessly over friends and strangers alike. The cabin hummed and shook as the Airplane banked to starboard - Oh, I see, the old 'check-out-the-view' routine, he thought.
Anonymous in the dark cabin David struck a match and became enveloped in the orange glow, the flare from the ignition failed rapidly. He watched the flame until it began to burn his fingers and with a small shrill gasp and a brisk shake of his wrist he extinguished the match, flicking it as it expired, into the murky darkness between his feet.
Exhaling he sank back into his seat, closed his eyes and unscrewed the lid of one of the flat little bottles of whisky he'd bought in the departure lounge Duty Free shop.
Escaping from the mayhem of the Economy Class from Hell, the bottle emptied quickly. The bitter heat of the liquor made him dry-retch and a long hard draw on his cigarette stifled the urge. His empty stomach passed the alcohol straight to his brain, which mingled with the hallucinogens of the 'Joint' he'd smoked in the departure lounge toilets.
Chemically relaxed - once again. David slowly gave in to the somber flow of the adagio...War had become the sole subject of his reportage over the past ten years.
The physical and emotional toll had begun to weigh heavily on his nerves and the separation from Sally had broken his grip on those demons that he kept locked deep in his psyche. Strains of the Adagio mingled with his thoughts as he closed his eyes, gradually slipping farther and farther away from the present, his mind succumbed to the past - David's mind, discorporated from his current reality by fatigue, alcohol and marijuana...
Drifting in an ethereal light, images of the all the horror he had witnessed began a macabre parade, wheeling and turning, illuminating the dark sad loneliness of his mind: A young boy dressed only in baggy camouflage pants that hung in loose bloodied folds from his narrow limbs writhed in agony squealing for his mother - his tiny body blasted to pieces in combat. An old woman weeping over a malarial baby - dying for the want of a few cents worth of medication. A buffalo grunting and snorting blood, disembowelled, shambling and stumbling on three limbs - the fourth shattered by a landmine.
Albinoni was hitting hard. David's shoulders sagged; his strength was being absorbed by the struggle with the cramped angular seat. His self-inflicted burdens had become too much.
David gritted his teeth and pressed his tongue hard up against the roof of his mouth. Tears welled in the corners of his eyes and squeezing the lids tightly caused the tears to skip delicately down his burning cheeks. Opening his eyes he flopped forward - his elbows on his knees. Extracting a departure lounge serviette from the pocket of his jacket, which he had rolled-up under his seat, he wiped his eyes and discreetly blew his nose. Holding his head in his hands he began to criticise his apathetic state...
"Scuzza, scuzza, MI SCUZZA SIGNORE!"
It was the stewardess he'd beckoned earlier. She’d brought the beer and the wine that he'd asked for. The drinks were placed onto the little table that was unfolded in front of him.
"Grazia bella". Tired and self-conscious he glanced up for a second and flashed a dimpled smile, then looked distractedly at the drinks while lighting another cigarette.
"Prego ". She replied flatly, eyeing contemptuously the cigarette. As she was turning to move away she noticed David's flushed appearance and perceiving the pain of departure from loved ones, she hesitated.
A thin-lipped matriarchal smile appeared on her face as she took from the pocket of her apron two tiny packets of peanuts; placing them next to the drinks she leaned across him to press the seat recliner button. David altered his posture to allow the seat to become upright. Still groggy from his terrible daydream, he marvelled at the supple fullness of her olive-skinned neck; a delicate perfume of perspiration and Eau de Toilette pervaded the air around her; David swooned.
Straightening to her full height the Stewardess turned toward the crew station pausing momentarily she pressed herself against his seat to allow another stewardess to squeeze past. Stylish and exotic in her tailored uniform the sound of her pantyhose rasping against the satin lining of her skirt crashed over his senses as he gulped from the fragile plastic cup. A wave of erotic intimacy flushed his cheeks. Her proximity intimidated him. He imagined accusing eyes scorning his obsessive behaviour - embarrassed and fearful of losing his faculties altogether David sank farther down into his seat; forlorn at the prospect of combat in his present state of mind and as always before an assignment, he was consumed with feelings of hopelessness and dread.
David alternated between drinking and smoking and attempts at sleep, which were never more than brief, restless haunted stupors.
For most of the flight David sat crumpled in a catatonic malaise...