Tom liked airplanes. He liked the dry taste of the air and the faint ding as the lights went on or the seatbelt sign blinked away. Most of all he liked the television fixed in the seat back in front of him, and the channels waiting for him to scroll through them. “Friends” was on, and he smiled faintly when the laughter scrolled over the characters’ voices.
After several minutes, he tapped on the seat in front of him. “Mom,” he said, “can I use your iPad?” The tablet was duly handed back and he set about playing on it, clicking buttons until cartoon characters shifted and moved. There was a grown-up lady in the seat next to him, and he showed her his cartoon. She smiled, clearly not all that interested, so he showed her another one.
The flight all the way to New York was a long one. Tom watched six more episodes of “Friends” and then two of a sitcom he didn’t know. Then he played with the iPad again. The lady next to him asked if he’d ever read a book called – oh, he’d forgotten the title. He told her he didn’t read much.
When the plane landed and everyone got off, Tom shuffled down the aisle and out along with his mother. She hefted his backpack onto her shoulder and they walked toward the baggage claim. The lady who sat next to him was going in the other direction. She waved at him, but he didn’t see her.