Fortunately for Ken, the flight was not packed, at least not in business class. Typically, the early flight around six in the morning was the full flight out of Seattle to San Francisco, it was the best one to catch for an international flight. Thankfully, Ken’s flight to Hong Kong was later in the day, which meant he could catch a subsequent plane. With no one sitting beside him, he closed his eyes and leaned his head back, while the plane prepared for take off.
Thoughts ping ponged in his head like firecrackers on the fourth of July. “Ugh..,” he exhaled loudly. He wanted to shut it all off. Would someone please put a vice grip on his head and squeeze, pushing out all the tormenting thoughts like a tube of toothpaste. It had been weeks since he had slept well, every night found him tossing and turning. Eventually he would just get up, so as not to wake Jesse.
Pacing the kitchen while he waited for the coffee to brew he would try to figure out why he was so restless. Again he came back to how good his life looked from the outside, he had everything going for him, most people would love to be in his shoes. He knew this intimately, for when his dad left his mom for another woman when he was twelve, everything crumbled around him. His mom, who had never been a happy loving woman, became even more bitter, unavailable and mean. Often leaving Ken to care for the others and to keep up what there was around the house. They lived off what child support they got from his dad, welfare checks and what odd jobs he could squeak in around school. He had carried this burden until he got into the MBA program at Berkley, then something snapped in him. Graduating from Oregon State University, in Corvallis, Oregon, he climbed into his beat up Ford Focus and drove nonstop to Berkley, never looking in the rearview mirror. Today the only person he maintained regular contact with was his sister Shannon, the second youngest of the five. She lived in Portland, Oregon, happy to be far away from the others too. Opening his eyes, he stared out the plane window.
“Would you like another cup of coffee with cream sir,” asked the flight attendant, who’s name badge said Brian.
“No thanks Brian, I’ve probably had enough coffee for this morning, Thank you for asking,” he smiled in reply.
Maybe he could distract himself with one of the airplane magazines. He knew he should prep for his meetings with John in Hong Kong, but the thought of work made his brain hurt. There were two glossy covered magazines to choose from in the chair sleeve before him. Scanning the headlines he waited for his curiosity to click on something. There it was, “Are You Happy With Your Life,” really he thought to himself. “What an odd title for an airplane magazine.” He did have to concede that it was the bottom offering of the second publication in his hands. Opening the page up, he found himself completely confused, “What the heck,” he almost spoke the words out loud. Before him was a completely shiny blank white page. Closing it to look at the cover again, he confirmed that there was a picture and title on the outside. Scrolling down he found the title again for the article he was interested in, “Yep, it was still there.”
Pulling back the cover page, he again stared at a blank page. Then out of nowhere black ink started to form words. “Oh my,” he gasped, dropping the magazine in his lap, realizing he had stated his shock out loud. Looking around he checked to see if anyone had caught his vocal reaction. All the people in business class were either asleep or had headphones in while they worked on laptops. Carefully, he picked the magazine back up, gently opening to the first page again. Before him suspended in space was the sentence that had started to type when he dropped it.
“Are you happy,” stared blankly at him.
In his mind he heard himself say, “No, not really.”
“Why,” scurried onto the page.
What was happening? He quickly looked around again, to make sure no one was looking at him, certain he would look like he was losing it.
“Don’t worry, they can’t see this page and besides why are you worried about what they might think,” typed the words.
Now Ken was really getting uncomfortable, for it was clear that the magazine could read his thoughts and feel his feelings, holy shit, this was crazy.
“Why are you unhappy,” the page asked again.
“I don’t know, truly, it confuses me. I have accomplished everything I set out to do. I have a beautiful, smart, successful wife, fabulous home, great job, but..,” his sentence faded off as he felt into his words.
“Are you saying that those things should make you happy,” inquired the magazine.
“Well, yeah, shouldn’t they,” he retorted quickly.
“I don’t know, why did you want them, go after them, work for them? What inside you wanted them? Why did you believe they were the path to happiness,” replied the page inquisitively.
“Isn’t that what everyone does? Go to school, then college, work towards a great career, make lots of money, find a partner to settle down with, buy a home and then you settle into family life,” as he stated the last words, he realized powerfully that the recent discussions with Jesse about having children was disturbing him. He wasn’t sure he wanted kids. After all he had raised his siblings, worked so hard to get where he was and now he just wanted to be for a little while. Having their dog Jax was enough responsibility.
“It’s okay to not want children,” the magazine gently offered.
Ken, couldn’t take it, he closed the magazine quickly, taking a huge breath, then holding it. Shaking his head, he looked around again, “Am I going nuts,” he asked himself. Glad the front cover was closed, for he did not want to read the response to that internal question. “Shit,” he stated almost audibly. On his lap sat what looked like a normal glossy magazine, it was supposed to be full of brief articles and too many advertisements to count. He had picked it up to take his mind off things, instead, he now found himself deep in the hole of heartfelt exploration.
He couldn’t open it back up, already there was so much for him to digest with what had already been expressed. There is was in simple black and white, “he was not happy.” He had rattled off to the paper all the things he had been thinking about for months now, the “why,” he should be happy. The guilt trip he kept barraging himself with for not feeling good about his life. “Ugh..,” he had not up until now realized how much talking about children had stirred up feelings for him. Intense reactions that he had buried when he drove away from it all many years ago. Tears started to rise, shaking his head, while taking in another long breath, he pushed them away.
“What was happening to him? Was he having a mental break down? Why couldn’t he pull himself together,” the frustrated, confused questions flowed forth like a burst spigot.
To be continued… 15