The flight from Joburg to Istanbul was packed. I checked in online the night before so I had my isle seat. Three out of the four seats in the row in front of me were taken up by two large, unattractive Turkish woman and two of their children – one around two, the other newborn. The older of the two cried throughout the boarding process.
The guy in the seat in front of me and the three to my left were all South African and loud in their views on how to deal with the crying child. ‘It’ll get worse before it gets better’, ‘we’ll have to drown it out with wine’, ‘what she needs is a klap’. The youngest of the men was around 45 – Asics and wrap-around Oakeleys, the oldest maybe 60, none of them actually said anything to either of the mothers.
The woman next to me was German. She was plain and wore a khaki fleece but sported bright pink glitter nail polish. She made notes in a Guide To Istanbul handbook. We drank raki and compared our wine choices. I slipped my earphones back on for dinner, ending the broken conversation. I picked at my food and ordered more wine as I flicked though the in flight documentary offerings. Nothing grabbed my attention.
The mother in front of the German rocked back and forth vigorously, the wine in the Germans glass moving with her. The mothers hair was braided and her features enormous. She smelt like a teen boy after school on a particularly hot day. Sweat patches spread from under her arms but I imagined the smell to come from the folds between the fat rolls on her back that flashed between the gap in the seats in front of me every time she rocked forward. Both women looked similar and I imagined their husbands did too. Fat and hairy with knockoff diesel jeans, leather sneakers and gold chains.
The wine and beer and departure lounge burger and pre-flight two-joint ritual took effect some way through the crap action movie I settled for and I slept for two hours.
I awoke to the German tapping me, she needed the toilet. I got up, brushed my teeth once she was done and watched parts of several movies until we landed. Before she put her shoes back on, the German picked at her toenails, the sour smell of her feet lingered during descent.