My mamma always said that air travel is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get. The best you can hope for is someone clean-smelling, not too big in the shoulder area and friendly enough so that if you accidentally nod off on them they won’t shove you away.
This brings me to my NBF and slightly-good-looking-from-a-profile-angle traveling companion on the journey between Rome and Dubai.
I’m pretty sure he didn’t mean to be funny but he spoke funny and chose funny things to talk about. Perhaps the non-verbal cues of when to politely bow out of a conversation got lost in translation, which is why I listened on for five whole hours. Also, I simply couldn’t cut him off because when an Italian speaks English, you get a little swoony from the lyrical inflection. Besides, he was wearing a big diamond earring and it was the first time I’d ever met a man with such outstanding bling.
‘So,’ I say after hellos have been exchanged, ‘What do you make of this case involving the Vatican and the remains of a girl found buried near Piazza Navona?’
(Note to reader: there’s no way I’m going be able to keep up the whole Italian accent thing throughout so you please-a to-a imagin-a all-a da time-a, huh?)
‘Those priest. They strange. They pay all kind of people to bring them all kind of people to do all kind of thing they not supposed to do and then they find the trouble. Why they make such a stupid a promise to no have – scusi for the rude - sex?’
‘Umm, no idea,’ I say, trying to look unfazed. (Fact: Sometimes when you show people that you’re shocked it just encourages them. You know, if they’re that kind of a person.)
‘They no even supposed to – scusi for the rude - wank’ he says. ‘But they wank. Why people lie about the wank?’
I couldn’t decide whether I should play it prudish and say ‘What is this wank of which you speak?’, or if I should act all casual and reply, ‘Me. I never lie about wanking.’
Instead, I blurt out in a strained voice ‘I don’t know. I don’t know why they lie,’ all the while shaking my head slowly and wondering how I’m going to re-divert this conversation.
Despite my discomfort (and I confess, amusement) an academic sounding wank chat ensues involving phrases like ‘perfectly normal’ and ‘nothing to be ashamed of’ to which he adds, ‘I no time to wank. My wife, she Thai. She like the – scusi for the rude – blow job.’
My eyeballs battle to say anchored in their sockets but I blink hard and swallow. I then try to un-swallow, just incase it gave him fancy ideas.
‘Is too much,’ he proclaims and then adds (so as not to seem un-manly I assume) ‘is nice this, but sometime I just tired. Then I don’t want, but my wife, she spoil me’.
‘Mmm,’ I nod sagely, working hard on the image of a man saying to his wife ‘No really honey, no more BJ’s today.’
After we’d resolved what constitutes a reasonable amount of sexy-time with your spouse, both oral and otherwise, we moved onto clothes. I won’t lie, I was kind of relieved.
‘So,’ I say, ‘What’s up with the diamond earring?’
‘Is too much?’ he says.
‘No, no,’ I lie.
‘I do for my stepdaughter,’ he explains.
‘She scared to have hole in her ear so I say OK, I do first.’‘But,’ he clarifies, ‘earring in a right ear mean you gay and earring in both ear also mean you gay, but earring in left ear is OK.’
I can’t face getting into a discussion about how I’d be perfectly fine with him even if he was gay. I don’t want to find myself in any more uncomfortable conversations.
‘Cool necklace’ I say. It looks a bit surfer-ish and I want to talk about surfing now, even though I know nothing about it. Anything other than all this other skanky business. ‘What’s the G for?’
And then, thinking to be-a funny-a myself-a, I add ‘Giuseppe? Guido? Geraldo?’
He looks over at me slyly and says ‘Is for Gucci but aaah, you know this boys?’
‘No. No!’ I exclaim, mortified that he thinks I’ve been doing the hokey-pokey while away in Italy. ‘No, no. I’m married. One man is just fine for me. I’m good with one.’ And then the penny drops.
‘Why?’ I ask, ‘do you hanky-panky on the side???’ to which he doesn’t so much as answer as makes a series of pained noises. At one point I think he may either cry or burst into song.
I found his revelation a little un-nerving because if Mr.-Bling-on-his-ear is getting jiggy outside the marital bed despite receiving – scusi for the rude - a daily BJ then what hope do the rest of our marriages have where we errr, maybe not-a spoil-a so much our spouse-a? (Moment of truth: he actually, he said he gets it more than once a day but I couldn’t bring myself to say it before now.)
It was a bizarrely surreal exchange. I felt like I was watching a cinema nouveau movie instead of having a real conversation with a real person.
Next time I fly I’m hooking up my iPod before I board the plane and not taking it off till I land. Still, he did make me laugh.