I was feeling so tense that I just stayed in my seat most of the time. It was the middle of the night and my plane was delayed for several hours. There was absolutely nothing to do – my nervousness was given free rein. The shops were closed and I couldn’t get drunk, like the American tourists who were also delayed. There had been times when I would have joined such parties, but I didn’t dare add beer to the oxazepam I had taken earlier. It had been a few hours since the medication but I hadn’t yet felt its effect.
When I first suffered from a fear of flying I imagined I could look it straight in the eye to show it who was boss, like a child training a disobedient pet. I had been given this advice by a colleague who regularly gave workshops on irrational fears. Let your body embrace the feeling, he had said, like when you hug someone. After the workshop, we had a drink together at his house, and then he asked me if I’d like to spend the night. During sex, he turned on his back and applied some lubricant to the head of a silver butt plug. Despite all the pills and booze, the anxiety workshops and presentations, I had never seen the serenity he exuded at the moment of penetration. For a moment his face contracted as though he were looking directly into the sun, but after a brief sucking sound the toy slid inside him. The musty smell of sweat grew stronger. I moved closer to him, seeking eye contact, wanting to be part of the experience, but he turned his face away from me. He sank into his pillow with his eyes closed.
After that night, I bought a purple silicone butt plug. I had tried to find the same one that my colleague had, in the shape of an abstract Christmas tree. For months it stood untouched in my bathroom, until I decided to take it with me on flights as a kind of last resort to calm my body.
I opened my rucksack sitting on the toilet. Wrapped in a tissue, the butt plug was packed between my laptop and my charger. I put in my earphones, scrolled through a porn site and clicked on a video. Riley Reid’s hamster cheeks appeared on the screen. She waved briefly at the camera and then showed off her varied collection of anal toys, like a flight attendant giving safety instructions.
When I was a child, I was given a life-size golden Andrex Puppy. It was incredibly soft. Because I played with it so much, a small hole developed just underneath its tail. Sometimes I pushed my finger in, sometimes several fingers. When my parents weren’t at home, I would put my willy in. As my lower body touched the soft fur, I was completely out of it for a moment.
I bent forward a little, while continuing to listen carefully to make sure no one entered. With my free hand, I took hold of a buttock and gently pressed the butt plug against my butt hole. I had read online that it was better not to insert it dry, but I had no lubricant in my hand luggage. I noticed the ease with which Riley inserted her butt plug and pressed a little harder. It seemed my body was opposed to the idea: my sphincter muscle was like frozen earth. I closed my eyes, took a few deep breaths and slowly the tip of the butt plug was enclosed. A pleasant tension built inside my belly. Riley encouraged me with a close-up of her inserted toy. Come on, just a few more inches, her smile seemed to say; there is plenty of nice, loose soil hidden beneath that hard crust. My body’s resistance turned into spontaneous horniness. The toy was fully absorbed and briefly the road was clear, but the pleasant sensation in my abdomen quickly disappeared, like a sudden cold shiver. Maybe the calm was yet to come, I thought. For a moment, I considered calling my colleague. Maybe I wasn’t hugging the toy firmly enough. I briefly tensed my glutes, then a faint wave of tension stirred in my belly. I did it again and this time the sensation lingered longer, as if I were administering medication to myself. It became a game; every time the sensation subsided, I tensed my muscles to keep the butt plug deep inside. The more tension coursed through my body, the better I could feel the toy. I carefully pulled my trousers back up and washed my hands.
All around me, suitcases were stowed and belts were being buckled. Every move in my seat, every manoeuvre of the plane translated into electric jolts in my lower body. The calm I had been looking for was not forthcoming, but my leg muscles were numb, like after an afternoon of intense exercise.
I imagined what I would look like when the butt plug reached its deepest point: spent and content. Then a young family came and sat next to me, including a little boy who, carried by his father, wasn’t yet old enough to have his own seat. At the sight of the family, panic surged through my legs. I hadn’t anticipated this. I had counted on a night flight without children as possible witnesses to my condition. I looked over the back of my seat, but was admonished to sit back down. We were about to take off. I saw my colleague’s uncontrollable slackening again in my mind’s eye; he moaned softly with his mouth half open. My body was well on its way to the same zombie-like state. I turned as far towards the window as possible, away from the family. An unintelligible announcement was made in the cabin and the plane started moving. My seat began to vibrate and every millimetre of my insides clasped the butt plug like a lifebuoy. As we took off, I kept looking out of the window, not noticing that the father had taken a plush toy out of his bag. To avoid disturbing his child’s sleep, he placed it in his lap, its head facing me. It was only when the plane had stabilised, the seat-belt sign had been switched off and I began to get up to finally make my escape that I saw the little dog. It had the same black beady eyes, was made of identical fabric and seemed to answer to the same name. Stared at by the stunned couple, I carefully lifted the dog off the father’s lap. It had been watching me all along.