“Here are ours. My wife, Meena, my daughter, Adrika, and my son, Ravi.”
“Okay,” the customs agent replied with an eye roll.
He was thanked for his tireless work nonetheless, and the family continued on their way through the seemingly endless Heathrow hallways. With their flight leaving at 8:00 AM, everyone was exhausted, so the nice, cool airplane that had softish seats with a small yet noticeable recline seemed like the perfect compensation.
This was no normal family though. With Siddarth leading the pack, carrying 3 ridiculously large black suitcases in his hands, his already impossibly large size doubled, he took up half of the hallway, causing all of the passengers to stare. His gorgeous, premium suede baseball cap with luxurious foam inner linings gave him a suspicious air that he loved and the cap lived for, but which the family was forever embarrassed of.
The rest of Siddarth’s family seemed to have all gotten his wife’s more normal, though dwarfish in comparison, dimensions. Adrika, 16, was a solid 5 foot 8, almost a foot shorter than her dad, causing her to have a weird combination of love, admiration, and nervousness whenever she got to spend time with him. Sometimes, she felt that the hats he was always wearing got more attention than she did. I doubt she was wrong.
Ravi was a baby, only 2. Adrika, being 14 years older, had her doubts about him, but she was slowly coming around. Ravi was lucky enough to be gifted with one of the Siddarth’s prized possessions: a limited edition Gucci baseball cap that he got as a wedding gift. He was wearing it today, because, as Siddarth said, “It always is good luck when father and son are matching-matching!” With the eye rolls going unnoticed, he danced around joyfully the whole morning. Yes, it did look as weird as it sounds.
“Should we find somewhere to sit?” Meena asked her husband.
“Of course, of course. These bones need to rest someplace. Look at me carrying all these suitcases while you guys just lounge around.”
His rambling went ignored because no one wanted to remind him that he was the one that had insisted on carrying the bags.
With two hours still left until boarding, the family of four managed to find an empty row of 12 seats, and filled up the middle 8.
“It’s a good thing that no one’s here in the morning,” Adrika said. “We can get a whole row to ourselves.”
“Yes, yes,” Siddarth huffed.
“Attention, attention! Flight Number 457 to Boston is boarding. I repeat Flight 457 to Boston is boarding. All passengers must report to the gate!”
“Oh!” Siddarth woke up with a start. “Okay. Let us go now.” With a mighty heave, he lifted himself up, grabbed the suitcases, and pushed his family to the line.
As Adrika walked with them, she already began to dread the moment ahead, the moment where her father would embarrass them even more.
“Boarding passes please,” the bored security agent said.
“Okay, sir. But how much can we get an upgrade for?” Siddarth asked kindly.
“You can’t do that here, you should’ve just chosen a first class ticket when you bought your tickets,” the man replied, eyeing his cap, the bags, and the whole family’s clothes. “Or when you checked in.”
“But, sir, how about you check if there are some empty seats, and maybe we can squeeze into them?” He ignored the chuckling behind him.
“I’m afraid that is not possible. You will have to sit where you were assigned.”
At this point, another security guard came up, and even though he was big, he was no threat.
“I’m gonna have to ask you to keep it moving, you’re holding up the line.” His thick British accent made Siddarth take a second before understanding what he said, and by this time he was fuming.
“You know, I am a high-class banker! I can make you pay for what you are doing to me!” His kind tone was replaced with a loud, obnoxious one.
“No one is doing anything to you sir,” the original agent said nervously. “You’re just holding up the line, so we’re asking you to just get on the plane.”
“This is outrageous! I was only asking for an upgrade, no need to belittle me!” He always threw in some big words when he was in this situation, hoping to impress the common folk.
“Let’s just go to our seats,” Meena said softly to her husband. “No need to create such a big scene.” Even though she usually said these things to him, and he usually ignored it, this time it was different. This time, he sensed that his entire family, not just Meena, wanted him to stop (and maybe he did too). He immediately put down all the suitcases and just left the line, walking off with his head drooped and shoes dragging. It was like a flip had been switched; what was on full blast a mere moment before was now very suddenly completely off. This shocked everyone, and when I say everyone, I mean everyone. No one knew what to say or do, because it’s not every day you see a 6 foot 8 man become a depressed shell of a person in an instant.
“Should we follow him?” Adrika asked nervously after a moment.
“Um, yes,” Meena said determinately.
As they walked past the shocked security guard and boarding agent, with the suitcases in tow, they all thought to themselves (except Ravi, of course) that maybe they had had something to do with the meltdown. Maybe if they had been more supportive of the move to Boston, he wouldn’t have stormed off. On the other hand, since no one had wanted to move anyway, this might’ve been their lucky break. I guess we’ll see when we get there, Adrika thought to herself.
Even though I was very much ahead of them by this point, from the corner of my eyeline I could’ve sworn I saw a smile come quickly and quietly across Adrika’s face. She wiped it off her mouth in an instant, but it stayed wistfully in her eyes.
As Siddarth moved surprisingly fast through the airport, I felt myself struggling to stay balanced on his head. At first I didn’t know why, then I realized it was because he was sweating. If I’m not mistaken, this might’ve been the first time he had ever sweat, or at least this much. The other three were seemingly not in the biggest rush of all time, and the suitcases certainly weren’t helping with that. They were catching up though, since even though we were running, he wasn’t at all fast.
Suddenly, he stopped. He bent over and panted; he was out of breath. He looked at his watch, then quickly turned it away to not be reminded that he was only “running” for four minutes. He managed to find a place to sit and sat there, hoping his family was coming after him.
When they finally arrived, they sat next to him, and without saying anything, he immediately felt more at ease and more comfortable. They were all silent, with only the occasional boarding announcement to fill up the peace. I wasn’t surprised, since if there was one thing that I knew about this family, it was that they weren’t talkers. They were more of a keep-quiet-and-think-to-yourself kind of family. Now, that was something that I actually didn’t mind, since I used all that empty space to come up with my own ideas about their life, and why I was even there.
Hats are for heat, the rain, the cold, or for self-conscious people. With those options, I can make a pretty good choice as to why I was perched on Siddarth’s head, and it made me think even more as to why. What did he have to be self conscious about when he had everything? He had an extremely well paying banking job, a great house, nice cars, and a family. What else does one need?
That’s when it hit me: he had a family, but he didn’t have love. He barely saw his kids, his wife was annoyed at him half the time (and vice versa), so then what? What else do you have when the only things that you love are things that you bought, not things you made?
Well, I guess then you have nothing.
It was at that moment, when an Aha! expression formed on Siddarth. He had realized what he was missing! Previously, he thought moving to a new place with new people and new things would bring his family closer together, but it was all right here. That was shown in the way they didn’t all board the plane when he stormed off, but they came back to him, because at the end of the day, they wanted his approval and his love.
Love. The one thing missing in his otherwise perfect life.
So for the first time in public in probably forever, he took me off, sat me down on a dirty airport chair, and embraced his family in one gargantuan hug that seemed to last for eternity. His smile plastered wide over his chubby cheeks, he whispered the three magic words to his family, and I swear some sweat dropped down onto the chair from the top of me.
He looked at me and smiled, and we both knew that this was the last time we’d ever see each other.