“Let’s go to the airport, Dad,” requested the son.
Dad looks down at him, over a piping hot bowl of prawn noodles. “The airport?” He remarked, bemused. Since when did his son ever want to have anything to do with an airport? He himself was tired, and would much prefer going home.
“Dad, please. I want to see the airplanes. After this you have nothing to do right?”
“I’ll think about it. Finish your chicken rice first. Make sure you finish every last grain ah,” warned Dad. The ceiling fan continued its industrious twirl as customers walked nonchalantly past on this hot Sunday. The son wolfed down his food between shallow breaths.
Upon leaving the food court, father and son took the train to the airport. The ride took exactly fifteen minutes, and was a direct train save the short stopover at Tanah Merah station. Dad didn’t own a car, so they had to make do with public transport. It’s cheaper anyway, and much more convenient was what he’d say to console himself. But what a privilege it would be to own a car! That would invariably be his immediate afterthought.
Nearing the airport, the train was filled with locals and foreigners alike, either going home or leaving home. It wasnt that hard to tell the difference, really. There were tired faces, stuffed with generous portions of Singapore cuisine and ruined by the hot weather, then there were those still fresh and excited, a clean slate about to be tarnished by their experiences overseas. They looked so eager to explore the world, it made Dad envious. All the while, the son was silent.
Upon stepping out of the train, father and son walked up to the departure hall. They passed the check in area, the huge area with a fancy ceiling, panelled redundantly by layers of metal. Slivers of light passed lithely through individual sheets. Large screens informed travellers of the flight timings and around them there were a variety of people. There were businessmen in suits, young couples holding hands, leaning against each other as they walked with their compact luggages. Then there were the families, with their huge luggages, tired parents with a handful of excited children trailing. I wonder where they’re off to, wondered Dad. The son stared on as they walked passed this sight, up the escalator and onto the viewing gallery.
Up at the viewing gallery, the son started to run, sprinting wildly for the window. Seven years of being on this earth, and he still can’t get over the sight of planes, thought his father. “Don’t run too fast! You just ate ah, remember. Don’t want you to get stomachache!” He called after his son.
He soon caught up with him, and stood beside him. The viewing gallery was virtually empty, save an elderly couple a few meters away. Wisps of silver hair rose from the elderly man’s head like steam. His wife held his hand, her hair obviously dyed a jet black. Dad looked back at the tarmac. The planes flew off at regular intervals; first a Qantas A380, followed by a few smaller Singapore Airlines planes. The son looked on, a tranquil smile on his face.
After a while of silence the son looked up at his father, a curious look on his face. “Dad?”
Dad kneeled down so that they were face to face. “Yes, son?”
“Do you think that the family we saw just now, the family with three kids. Do you think they’re on any of these planes?”
Dad thought about this for a while. He knew that it wouldn’t be possible given the whole check in and departure process, but was too lazy to explain. “I don’t know. They could be. Which is pretty cool don’t you think? Everyone just flying off into the sky like this, without a care in the world.”
The son looked into the distance. “I wish we could be like that family,” he remarked wistfully.
To that the father had nothing to say. One day, son. One day I’ll give you an entire plane. I’ll fly you to the moon if you wish. You’ll be the happiest son on earth. But no, thought the father. That would never come into fruition. Heck, even a normal economy class ticket wouldn’t be possible in the near future. There was just no way.
Dad looked forward, unable to utter a word.
“Dad, do you want to know a secret?”
“Yes, son?” He was suddenly curious as to what secret his only son could possibly have at such a young age.
His son smiled mischievously, “when I grow up I am going to be a pilot, Dad. I’m going to fly one of those big planes.”
“Wow, that’s quite an ambition, young man.” Said the Dad, taken aback. “You’ll have to study really hard, you know that right?”
“I know I can do it, Dad,” his son continued with a voice of steely determination he had never heard before. “All the rich kids at school only know how to play on their iPhones. I bet I could beat them anytime. I know I can do this. I will grow up to be a pilot, and then we don’t have to worry anymore. We can both fly to anywhere in the world for free.”
Dad knew that it wouldn’t be so simple, that life changes people and people change their dreams. His son wouldn’t be exempt from this change. But for a split second, with just the two of them sharing this quiet moment, he earnestly believed that his son would indeed grow up to be a successful pilot.
“Can I ask you one more thing?” Added the son.
“Yes?” Mumured Dad, gathering himself.
“When I become a pilot, will you promise to be my first passenger?”
Father smiled at son. “I promise.”