Given To Fly
16:41: If ever you hear someone complaining about the lack of leg room on a regular commercial plane will you please slap them round the back of their head and call them a whiny little jackass on my behalf. That was one of the worst travel experiences of my life, and I include the time I got trapped on the Victoria Line mid-way between Finsbury Park and Seven Sisters for four hours on the hottest day in living memory because of a small electrical problem in one of the carriages. To my relief it was nothing to do with Raph’s flying skills. In fact in less cramped circumstances it would have been a nice relaxing trip. I mean sure there were the occasional mid-air bumps and impromptu turns, but our pilot remained cool, calm and collected throughout what he assured us was mild turbulence. It was cool to watch him, I guess after spending much of his adolescence trying to get high off every substance he could get his hands on he decided to go for the literal interpretation. He loves it so much he’s even thinking of opening up his own small airline. I hope he gets some bigger planes!
The other two passengers weren’t so laid back about the experience, although watching a big muscle-bound dude like Brad descend in to complete childlike fear was kind of amusing and unnerving at the same time. At one point I began to wonder if I’d accidentally shared my mental A-Team recast out loud as all he could say was “what was I thinking? I don’t do flying. I’m such a fool!” I honestly believe that had Karim not been there he would have tried to jump out the plane. Given his size he’d have succeeded too!
Anyway we finally landed after being forced to circle the runway for a good twenty minutes, and now I’m sat in a four seater taxi paid for by Brad as a way of apologising for him, as he put it “regressing to the mental age of a three year old”. Bless him, he’s really embarrassed, and we both know Karim will find some way to tease him about it for the rest of their lives together. Raph couldn’t hang around for pleasantries, but we did say we’d make an effort to stay in touch. I’d never have thought we’d ever say that ten years ago!
As we trundle our way through the busy London traffic, getting denser with every mile, I’m getting nervous. Add to that all the marathon revellers trying to get home to see if they can see themselves on the TV highlights show later tonight and its mild chaos. We decide to use the time as wisely as possible.
“So any idea what you’re going to say?” Karim asks with way too much excitement. “I mean beside the obvious, ‘I’m sorry I’ve been a complete twat’ obviously.”
“Obviously” I respond, noticing the stern look from Brad which says ‘will you be quiet? I’m on the phone here!’ “To be honest I haven’t got much further past that, but I’m sure I’ll think of something.”
“You can’t go in there half-cocked y’know! Brad used to do that and I won’t have you being the same.”
“What? You going to marry me too?”
“Oh I’ll marry you to within an inch of your life bitch!”
“Will you two be quiet?” Brad demands with a now instantly recognisable high-pitched squeal, before turning back to the phone. “Sorry Justin sweetie, it’s like a kindergarten in here. I know you’d think it was those two that got married! Him? Oh he’s taller than you’d think, those pictures don’t do him justice. I know I don’t know how he gets away with that stuff either!” Brad gives me a wink that confuses me for a split second – if ever a man could turn another man to his side of the fence it would be Brad! I know I’m asking a big favour of him but I hope he doesn’t expect too much gratitude in return.
* * *
It takes just under an hour to get through the busy city streets to my flat, it’s not as peaceful as it usually is (well, peaceful for the middle of London anyway!) As we turn the corner for my street we all see clothes and books and other belongings being thrown out of a third storey window, and a poor lonesome figure stood in the middle of the road seemingly pleading for calm. Poor ‘Misery Mike’ looks to have stepped it up a notch or two to hang on to his nickname while I’ve been away. As we get out the taxi we can hear shouts of abuse and accusations of male sexual dysfunction (which no dude needs to hear, especially in public!) coming from who we have to assume is his soon-to-be ex-wife. I try not to take any notice of the domestic war zone while Brad and Karim settle the bill and I head for the front door. There’s a huge crash behind me. I look down and there’s a beautiful red acoustic guitar that will never be played again.
“Jesus Christ woman will you watch where you’re throwing stuff?” Mike screams, waving his hands in desperation. I catch a glimpse of an apology in his eyes. I don’t know what’s happened here – hell I don’t want to know – but you can understand why my thoughts briefly turn back to Max. I wonder if the streets of Bournemouth are witnessing a barrage of his belongings being thrown in to the sun drenched sky?
“Um, can we get inside before she starts throwing pianos?” Karim asks, checking above him for falling domestic objects. I really hope things get sorted out.
* * *
The flat is just as I left it on Friday morning. There’s still the mild smell of cigarettes which I’m guessing is from the furniture. Funny, until I walked through those doors I didn’t even want a fag...and by that I do mean the cigarette and not Brad or Karim, who are already passing judgements on my little bachelor pad. “So this must be where all the heterosexual action happens then?” Karim says with just a small dose of sarcasm, well small for him anyway. I offer them both a drink, but Brad is quick to decline. “We have to start getting ready” he declares in a very Diva-type tone.
“Take your time, I don’t want to seem too eager” I say, pointing to the huge neon clock on the kitchen wall that I borrowed from a former employee – two years ago. “Besides the Paradigm is only ten minutes away at the most!”
“But do you know what you’re going to wear?” Karim demands.
“Do you know what you’re going to say yet?” Brad follows, both of them stood there with their arms folded like a gay Spanish Inquisition. “And besides, don’t you want to get there early?”
“Isn’t that a little desperate?”
“Dan, you are desperate!” they both shout, and they’re right. I am.
A minute later and I’m stood in the bedroom starring in my own version of Queer Eye For The Straight Guy. Every potential wardrobe choice is scrutinised for suitability for the night ahead, and to help Karim pulls out his digital camera and starts snapping away like I’m auditioning for London Fashion Week. Finally after an excruciating twenty minutes, and a little cosmetic care applied to my face, we settle on smart jeans and a brown jacket which, I’ll be honest, forgot I had - a present from Suzy, which seems very apt.
It takes a good half-hour for the others to get ready. At first that’s a good thing as it gives me the chance to catch up on a few things. I ring Dad and Liz to let them know I’m home – they want to know more but I tell them I need to keep them in suspense a little while longer. There’s a few other phone messages to return, a couple of bills to pay, a few emails to send and, something that I’ve not done in a while, a letter to write. I put the hand-written A4 sheet in to a crisp white envelope and with that I’m ready to go, but the others are still faffing around. Well that’s a little unfair – Brad is ready within ten minutes, which is impressive given the amount of moisturizing and hair straightening rituals he must go through every day. Apparently his hair is naturally curly so it takes a little longer, apparently. But when Karim tries on every possible combination in his portable wardrobe, and after approximately five child-like tantrums about only having limited resources with which to clothe himself properly because he had to leave most of his stuff in Bournemouth, it’s leaving us very little time to get to the club on time, never mind early.
We’re finally ready and heading out the door. The building’s corridors are surprisingly quiet after the domestic unease of earlier. Outside the road is still showing signs of the mid-air onslaught, with various items of clothing fluttering about in the breeze. There’s no sign of ‘Misery Mike’ or his wife. We take that as an all clear and start down the road towards Hyde Park.
“So have you figured out what you’re going to say yet?” Brad asks, checking that Karim is able to keep up with our long strides.
“Kind of” I say, checking that the white envelope is in my jacket pocket while trying to hide the nerves that have taken me completely by surprise. I didn’t think I got nervous any more “It’s something I wanted to say a while ago but never got around to it.”