It’s finally summer. That means a lot of sun, no school and, best of all, vacation. And that starts… right now! I’m about to get on a plane to Aruba with my mom. My dad and sister are going on vacation as well, but they’re going to Paris. That probably sounds weird, but itś kind of a tradition in our family. We always split up for one week, to get some quality time. After the week we get together and go another week to a campsite. I’m already looking forward to that.
“I’ll go to the little shop over there to buy us a bottle of water, okay?” my mom asks me. We just sat down on the benches in the terminal of the airport.
“That’s fine with me. Getting thirsty already,” I smile. I like being alone with my mother, I always felt like I had a special connection with her. That’s weird, normally you hear about the daughter and the mom getting along well and the son with his dad. In our family it’s the other way around. I guess my family isn’t the most ordinary family you can imagine. I look around to see what kind of people decided to go to Aruba as well. I notice a guy in a suit, reading a small book. I see a foreign looking couple and a very neat family. I can’t think of another word to describe them than pompous. They have two kids, both around my age, give or take a year. One of them looks up and notices me staring at them.
I look away. I notice some other people too, but all very ordinary. My mother returns to me with two bottles of water. “You were looking at the other people who were getting on the plane, weren’t you?”
I laugh. “How did you know?”
“Because you are just like me and I would’ve done the same. What do you think about those two?” She nods towards a grumpy old man who is accompanied by a much younger woman who definitely used way too much makeup.
“At a certain point in life you should accept wrinkles and not try to hide them, because that makes it worse?” I make the end sound like a question, not sure if that’s what she was asking for.
She laughs at the remark. “I meant their relationship. She is too old to be his daughter, don’t you think?”
“Oh no, she is definitely his partner. So that means…” I start to say, but my mother finishes the sentence.
“The old man probably has a lot of money.” We both laugh, because that’s exactly what I wanted to say.
I like doing this, watching people and thinking about their lives, their history. I’m not a very smart person, although I sometimes try to look that way. My father always said I was born to use my hands, not my brains. In some way he is right, I guess, because I like to be the handyman. I would not say I’m stupid either, I’m just not that good in school. I can learn and I know a lot, but I learn by doing and my school doesn’t teach that way. They wanted me to learn from a book instead of learning from experiences.
“And how did they meet?” my mother asks.
“Hmm,” I say. “I would probably guess the man had a wife, but she died after being sick for a long time. The man doesn’t look like he would be good at household chores, so they hired someone to take care of that. After the woman died, the housekeeper and the man were left together. He has money, she kept working for him.”
“And now they are going to Aruba together. Such a heartwarming story, my boy.”
I smile. “Thank you, thank you. Now it’s my turn. That family, what do you think about them?”
“They are very pompous,” she immediately says. “They both have very busy jobs and had a nanny for their kids. The one on the right,” she adds while pointing at the boy that had caught me staring at them a little earlier, “is the smart one. He gets the highest grades. The other one is smart as well, but a little less, so he always heard he had to try harder. He always had to become his brother.”
“Aha. And who is older?”
“That’s a hard one. I’d almost say they are twins.”
I shake my head. “I don’t think so.”
“You think the cute one is the oldest?” she asks and winks at me.
I blush a little. I came out to my family about a year ago and my mother liked it a lot. She said that makes us even more alike, because now we even like the same sex. When I’m alone with her she always makes comments about cute boys. I like that, I like being accepted.... but, I know she always wanted to become a grandma. I know she was a little disappointed when I came out to her. I told her Sira, my sister, could be the one to give her grandchildren,, but that didn’t make a difference to her.
Anyway, she accepted it, so I should not complain, right?
“Ladies and gentlemen, people with seats 1 up to and including 26 are requested to check in.”
My mother takes the tickets out of her pocket and looks for the seat number. I already know we have seat 10, so I gather my luggage together and get up. I grab my mother’s bag as well. She smiles at the gesture. “You’re such a gentleman,” she says.
“Only ladies and gentlemen were requested to check in, right?”
We get on the plane. I got the seat at the window and my mother sits next to me. I’ve flown many times, but still get a little nervous when flying. I notice the pompous family getting in the plane right behind us. When my mom and I sat down, the youngest of the boys says: “Where is first class, mom?”
“There is no first class,” the dad growls.
“Huh, why is that?”
“The plane simply doesn’t have one,” he says.
The boy sighs out loud. “Then why didn’t we take another flight?”
The brother I thought was older and was, according to my mother the cutest (though I can only agree with her), didn’t say a thing. He just followed his parents to their seats. “There wasn’t another plane with first class leaving today.”
“You’ll get some ice cream when we land to make up for the inconvenience, okay?” the mom says with a voice that was too sweet to be a response to the inappropriate complaints of the kid.
My mother’s face appears in front of mine, tearing my gaze from the family. “Don’t you dare judge them here in public.”
“Wait… I didn’t…” I try to say in my defense.
“Your face, Ryan, it shows judgment.”
“Sigh,” I say out loud, “it’s not like anyone else than you could read my face.”
A woman who’s seated in the same row, but across the walkway apparently heard the conversation. “Normally mothers are the best to read your face, young man, but she is right. It was kind of obvious.”
I feel my cheeks turn red. “They don’t belong here,” I whisper loud enough for the woman to hear. I mean that. I normally have nothing against other people, I don’t really mind them. I have my family and some close friends, but everyone that isn’t part of those two groups don’t really register much with me. Nothing more. Just people to fill up the world, you know. But, then you have people who think of themselves as better than others, and I don’t have a grain of respect for those people. Everyone is a human being and you should respect them as one.
“I am probably not allowed to agree with you on that, it’s not something a lady like me would do when the boy’s mother is close,” she says with a smile. “I’m Margareth, by the way.”
My mother extends her hand to her. “Kyra,” she says. “And this is my son, Ryan.”
“Are you two travelling alone?” she asks.
“Yes, we have a tradition to split up the family when going on vacation,” my mom explains. “His dad and sister are going to Paris today.”
“Ah, that’s interesting,” she replies and notices how the stewardesses are getting ready to close all luggage cabinets. “Well, have a nice flight.”
“You too, missus,” I say. We get the standard safety instructions, just like always. And, just like always, I wonder if this is just a show. Aren’t those instructions there only to complete the already frightening vision people have about planes? We always say flying is relatively safer than driving, so why don’t we ever get safety instruction when going on the bus?
Then we take off. I watch the ground getting further and further away, while the cars and houses become smaller. I like looking outside while in the plane. That’s like other people, but the difference is that I tend to keep looking outside, even when we ascended above the clouds. I don’t know why, but the clouds are so amazing. Did you ever notice that the clouds, from above, are very flat. It’s like they can’t rise any higher, so the upside is horizontal. But, there are a few fluctuations. You always see random little towers of cloud sprouting from the carpet of cloud.
I put on my headphones and start listening to Ludovico Einaudi, a modern composer. I like the music, it helps me relax. I watch the clouds, listen to the music and fantasize about my newest project. I like to draw and carve statues out of wood. Right before the holidays started, I tried to paint a painting in a surrealistic style. I took Dali’s clocks as inspiration, but gave a modern twist to it. I made a typical street in a shopping district, with soft limp mobile phones hanging and laying everywhere. I only made some sketches, I didn’t start the real painting yet. That’s because I felt like I missed something in the sketch. It didn’t yet feel like a modern version of Dali. I want people who see it to immediately connect it to the great painter.
I feel my eyelids getting heavier while watching the pure whiteness of the clouds. After another half hour of watching the floating water, I close them. I fall asleep.
I don’t know how long I was asleep, but I get shaken out of my sleep a little while later. I grumble a bit, why can’t my mother find a more subtle way to wake me other than shaking me out of it. I move my head to ease my sore neck, but I stop when I notice it wasn’t my mother that woke me up.
“Turbulence,” my mom states to relax me a bit.
“I knew that,” I reply with a forced smile. I always hate turbulence.
“And I knew that.” She says as she lays her hand on my shoulder.
“The seats in first class are much better suited against turbulence,” the pompous guy behind me complains. “I don’t want to fly business class ever again, mom.”
“It’s okay darling, the turbulence is almost over with.”
But it isn’t. It’s only getting worse. Soon the plane start vibrating a lot. A trolley which the stewardesses use to bring food suddenly whizzes past us, hitting a man on his hand. The seatbelt lights switch on and everyone puts them on immediately. “Ladies and gentlemen,” the pilot’s voice comes over the intercom, “we would kindly request everyone to remain seated. We are experiencing some minor problems with the equipment. We’ll keep you updated.”
This isn’t good, right? I’ve never experienced something like this before. What could be happening? I feel my heartbeat increasing. Is this excitement? Am I excited to have problems, to crash? A real plane crash. My breathing increases, I feel a pressure in my chest. I turn to look at my mom and I feel the pressure increasing, reaching my eyes as if they could plop out of my head any moment. I start breathing even harder.
“Ryan, relax. You’re hyperventilating. There is nothing wrong.”
“Mom, that guy is totally stressing out!” I hear. “Probably never experienced turbulence.” But the mother doesn’t reply, for the first time since I’ve seen them.
Then a woman suddenly cried out. “The wing! THE WING!”
Everyone turns around to see who’s screaming.
“It’s on fiiiirreeee!!”
The oxygen masks drop and I do as well. I feel my sight getting dark, my head starts getting cold. I don’t know what is happening, I think I’m going blind or something? And my head is getting heavy? Are the heads of blind people always this heavy? If so, I wonder why they don’t have massive muscles in their necks.
Everything gets heavy, my muscles can’t handle it. I feel the plane tilting a little bit. I feel my consciousness fade away.