JetBlue. SouthWest. Canjet. Vueling. Azul. Virgin. Always-Ryan-fucking-Air. EasyJet. Nothing is easy. Wizz. Wow. Pegasus. Going through security you remember there are 21 points of pleasure. One shoe-bomber and the whole damned world removes: shoes, belt, ring, spleen, ovaries—in the tray please, conveyed, x-rayed, scanned, full-throat guffaw, my sock hole. Always wear clean underwear just in case. Inner elbow. Back of knee. Neck. Meat between thumb and index. Center of palm, right where they spiked Christ. The other 16—all sewn between iliac crest and coccyx. Nameless. Boarding pass. Battery charged. Earphones. Sea across sea, ear-shaped ilium, our third ear? Can it hear? Remember the picture of the rat with the human ear genetically graphed in place of a tail. A mother hip-saddled with twins, acrobatically yanks her phone from back pocket and captures the gate information This is how we remember. Our minds are personal devices. A beer bellied man in tweed and beret, can’t be French, too faux, with travel-pillow around neck—horse collar? Snaps the gate information, you photo-bomb him, yes we are travelling, we travel, we have leisure, this is not work, you need to live like me, you know me, pay me your attention, monetize, count likes. Travel.
You are or you aren’t. You will be or you won’t. Binary. Secret. Which is it? Business not pleasure. DUB-LGW-GIG-BOG-LAX-JFK-DUB.
Ear-plugged, blinded, pillowed, blanket-wrapped, long-hauling. This little thing inside will need a ticket in three years. Become a mommy-blogger, vlogger, flogger, at what age to airlines charge children? At what age can they fly alone. You’ve a speech to give. Enlighten. Aloft. You try and recite my opening better.
Seamless transfer, baby grey hairs in the mirror, wash face, ignore smell. Terminal one. Terminal three. Terminate. A shiny black Mercedes, the driver—a glossy magazine model, glistening, smooth, delivers you, like a fragile package, to another hotel. Convention Centre. Hotel. Speech. State supper. Night club. Hotel. The walls so thin you could conceive. Airport. You’re in Rio, Bogotá, Dakar, Ubud, who knows, eating, always eating Maafe, couscous, farofa, chorizo stuffed arepas. You are the arepa. Estoy embarazada. Enhorabuena. You stare into the fog rolling off the Chingaza, Cristo, Wicklow, Toulouse. I am embarrassed. In good hour. Direct translations never serve. Fault. Ball slaps net. You lose. You try to write another speech in the air, bad endings like unwanted nicknames. Cumulus, Cirrus, Cirrostratus, Mushroom.
Mel is waiting at LAX. Old lover now friend, almost brother, almost childless, also at the top of his game. Swell Mel. He whisks you up the 405 to the 101 past Solvang to a tiny cabin above Bien Nacido Winery in his silent electric car. The Malibu surf rolling away to the left. Condos give way to mansions. Fat seals flounder on shore rock. Coltrane cranked. Mel monologues about his latest client and dating and property prices and the grape harvest we are going to stomp. We will make great wine, he declares.
You’re awfully quiet.
Tired. Long trip. Still processing.
Am I boring you?
Never. Sorry, Mel.
Shall we stop for a coffee?
Do you want to crawl into the back for a nap?
Yes, Mel. Thank you for always understanding.
Fire scars. The cabin is dollhouse perfect. Mel lights a fire, opens a Pinot. When I return, you’re going to tell me everything, it’s been far too long, he says, before driving silently off for groceries. The vineyards are symmetrical and lush. Yearning to be crushed. Turned to wine. Liquefied. Liquidated. I Google the procedure price. $350 to $950. I’ll do the procedure in New York. Maybe Brooklyn or Jackson Heights. At night the prostitutes worked the Marie Stopes Clinic parking lot below the sign: We Offer Walk-in. Jokes made, no longer funny. You finish the second bottle before Mel returns. At dinner you slur. It’s been seven years since. You could entrap him. You growl in his ear after opening that fifth bottle, I want you to do me like a dog on the floor, can you just do that one thing for me just this once? Control is an illusion. Finish inside. Black out. In the morning, delicate light grids the bed, we’re too hung to crush any grapes. We’re awkward and polite over coffee, too foggy to read. Mel goes for a cycle; you make more toast.
In the cab from JFK, that little head-voice yells liar, liar, liar. Speech. Interview. ABC Early Morning Show. Sushi. Wine. You buy a pack of cigarettes for four trillion dollars. The first time in twelve years. Smoke it away. Another speech. Cocktails. Handshakes. Selfies galore. You’re told you are amazing, fantastic, awesome, an inspiration. Remember to tip the doorman, the waiter, the cabbie, the doctor? Count the likes, the views, six thousand new followers since departure. Take-off.
On the Air Coach, you meet Deirdre, an old schoolmate, rosy, bubbling, full of news. She nods towards your duty-free haul. Are the 60 ounces Grey Goose a reminder of our shared youth? She rubs her belly. I would if I could but there is someone in here, her eyebrows say. You shrug. Yes, let’s do lunch, yes let’s. But you don’t follow each other. Never did. Lost her number many phones ago. We’ll never share our kiddie’s school pageant, no paper crowns, no screaming birthday parties. No christenings. No scraped knees. The best gifts are consumables. Vodka. Wine. Cheese. Chorizo. Chocolate.
You work late to find the perfect—oh so perfect, must be perfect—conclusion. Aren’t we all just buck passing, no matter how kind our wordy intentions? To save this world, we’ll need to apply statistics better. More hits, more likes. Keep counting. No. Cancel the abortion. Let’s see and hope this plays out well.