Three bodies in front of me on last night’s rush to board the late flight to Sydney was a young Tory archetype so precisely drawn I thought for a moment he must have just stepped off an amateur stage after playing a hilarious bond trader in Ayn Rand: The Musical.
He was unnecessarily tall, a fact made worse by his bearing, which was that of a short man trying to appear tall. His face was ruddy — it goes without saying — and bloated, but he is much too young to have quaffed enough ballsy Australian reds to have earned such a complexion. His pink and puffy face glows not with grog or overworked arteries — at least not yet — but with simple unalloyed contentment at his place in the universe. He radiates certainty.
He wears a pin-striped suit jacket with jeans, a consciously poor combination that says “what the fuck do I care?”. His stupendous carry-on luggage conveys a similar idea: a Samsonite monstrosity no better suited to an overhead compartment than a sofa-bed. (It will take the combined efforts of the entire crew to wedge it in somewhere; for all I know, the co-pilot ended up sitting on it.)
He took a seat in economy, surely an exercise in irony (“you’ll never guess who I saw while travelling cattle class to Sydney last night? Absolutely fucking nobody!”)
He was two seats across, separated by the aisle. Spitting distance, and the thought occurred to me.
His phone rang and he spoke loudly, as is his inheritance.
“Aaron! Mate! Yep. Yep. Tell him to get fucked. No, tell him to wait till I get back to Melbourne and I’ll tell him to get fucked. What? Yeah. Abbott’s doing bloody well. Head office reckons they’re killing in Queensland. Beautiful, mate. Anyway. On the plane. Better switch this bloody thing off. Alright, mate. Don’t worry about him. He’s a piece of shit.” He hung up and quickly dialled another number.
“Mate, I’m on the plane, so quickly: Aaron just called. He’s fucking furious with you. Tell him I had a word, alright? Say you got the message. He’s such an old woman. Keep the peace, buddy, ok? Yep, ok. Gotta run. Ciao.”
He looked over his shoulder to check for scowling hostesses but caught my eye instead. I noticed how his abundant hair was self-styled, probably by fistfuls of Brylcreem, into undulating waves. I looked away but not in time. “What?” he shot at me. My face burned as I stared out the window. The labrador of a senior sales manager from Beaumaris to my left couldn’t restrain his empathy.
“Some history there, mate?” he whispered.
“What? Oh no. Not with him specifically.”
The sales guy clearly blitzed his active listening course, and his eyes egged me on.
“It’s more with people like him,” I said.
He looked casually to his left and took in the Tory, whose phone was still alight as he pounded out a text message with his chubby fingers, grinning to himself.
“Oh mate,” he said, turning back to me, rolling his eyes and shaking his head in tandem: “I know exactly what you mean”.