We are travelling back to Melbourne via cargo. The more you book cargo travel the cheaper and easier it gets. Perhaps I give off some sailors’ scent now – a mixture of brine, smoke and loneliness – that booking agents are tuned in to. It has the equivalence of a business class ticket. I am waved through the gates of paperwork, quoted a still exorbitant yet able to keep my kidney price, promised the ‘owners cabin’.
I have travelled business class only once in the sky. It was in Malaysia just after a friendly man had seen my ocean wide eyes that screamed ‘mule’ coming and cornered me in the airport elevator, trying to get me to carry a package for him. I was so horrified, so full of middle-disquiet that I marched up to the check-in and, instead of reporting him, found myself demanding a business class ticket. I may have just been asked to shove powder up my arse, said my demeanor, but I can god-damn sit on it in a comfortable seat. To my shock the man at check-in relented and I bought him the most expensive box of chocolates ever sold – realising only over the continent that I should have just given him the money. On the way to the plane I went automatically into the economy line. Onboard, in the correct seat and after wine, roast things and a bed more comfortable than any I can remember they asked me to write a testimonial of my trip. I filled three pages.
Heading again for the open sea I know what to imagine: the white of the cabin and the speakless floors, the wobble of the horizon out the portholes, the shy men, the captain as king. But will I be able to overcome the traveller’s rope: the I’ve been everywhere man; the of course I know boats! I spent a week on one!; the temptation to say ‘on our last trip’, ‘on the other boat’, ‘that’s like the time …’ Will I be able to see the empty ocean a new?