Teenaged Traveler’s Lament

Holding handsI looked back across the aisle. Donna and Jill looked to be fast asleep. Chris had found a video game and Alex continued to page through his textbook. Studying wasn’t what I imagined he’d be doing at this hour. Maybe he was hanging on to a little of home while he could. I felt sorry for him. He was like a young soldier marching off to war, simply following orders. I still had my doubts whether this trip was the best thing for him at such a crucial time in his life. At nearly sixteen, he was at a turning point of his life. The shackles of childhood were breaking away while a promising new world was showing its twinkling lights just down the road. At his age, I remember this exciting time all too well. The episodes that suddenly popped up around me. They might not have been the most wholesome, yet they brought such a feeling of joy and hope – more than I’d never known. Now my son was going though the same thing and who better than ol’ Dad to guide him?

How I wished Alex and I were still close. I used to read to him every night before bed and sing him the goodnight song. That little boy and I were like two peas in a pod. I’ll never forget the first time I taught him how to use a power drill, he was about eight. With his excited eyes looking up at me through those plastic goggles I felt like the best Dad in the world. Things changed around sixth grade. He didn’t seem to need me any longer, except to buy him a pair of skater shoes (not the laces, just the shoes) or a maybe a new CD. Overnight, just like that, my little boy was gone.

My legs needed stretching so I unbuckled my seatbelt and wedged myself out to the aisle. This made enough commotion to get Alex’s attention. He got up and followed me. We met outside the lavatories and he confessed that he was studying because his MP3 player battery died and the airline’s music selection was “lame.” In spite of his air of melancholy we managed a decent conversation – mostly poking fun at the stewardesses and their red hats. Cynicism was something we still shared and was always a reliable base for discussion. Knowing that, I planned to keep things light and positive lest we ventured toward that sensitive topic – the reason why we were on this airplane. We had five months to go and things could get very difficult if I let my guard down this soon.

“Wanna trade seats?” he asked. Suddenly I remembered the sensitive kid under all those complicated layers. How sweet that he noticed how lonely I’d gotten sitting across the aisle by myself.

“My TV isn’t working. I want to watch yours?”

Okay, maybe not so sweet.

Alex took my seat next to the snoozing big man and I crawled in next to Jill. A pair of eyeshades boasting the airline logo covered her sleeping eyes. She stirred then rested her head against my shoulder. Her hair smelled like one of those shampoos girls her age use. I wasn’t worried about her at all, she’d adapt just fine. How funny. The kids were so different from each other. “Dad, look.” Chris tried to whisper as he pointed to a tiny airplane-shaped icon on his video monitor “We’re more than half way there!”  I extended my arm and brushed his hair with my hand. He’d be fine too. I breathed through my nostrils and contemplated reaching this point of no return. Oddly, I felt relief. As London was getting closer, so was the last day of this trip.

NEXT: London Calling

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