Saturday Stories: Girl on the Plane/Boy on the Plane

dsc_0010-cropBelinda took her seat on the plane—12A—a window seat. She had just finished her Masters degree in aerospace engineering. Graduating top of her class, she’d had her pick of jobs. In the end, she’d chosen Lockheed Martin, not just because of the job, but also because it was located in Colorado.

A man sat down next to her. She smiled, and they shared a greeting as he buckled himself in.

Belinda grinned as the plane accelerated down the runway. For the first time in her life, she was leaving the Midwest. She was finally pursuing her dreams for real. Her first real job! She was already envisioning the trajectory of her career—as carefully calculated as the trajectory of the space craft she intended to design and launch some day.

Belinda had always been obsessed with space. She had asked for a star chart for her sixth birthday, and created a scale model of the solar system as a science project in first grade. She excelled in math and physics in high school. She had been accepted at MIT, but her parents couldn’t afford the tuition. Instead, she had attended Iowa State University, where she had earned a full scholarship for both her undergraduate and graduate degrees.

As the plane reached cruising altitude, Belinda relaxed into her seat and watched the patchwork of Iowa farmland pass below. She couldn’t wait to see the mountains of Colorado. She would learn to ski, and maybe rock climb, too.

Her thoughts were interrupted by the man next to her. He was older than she—in her eyes, ancient, though he was probably only in his mid-fifties. He was well-dressed and unexceptional-looking.

“You headed to the ski fields?” he asked.

“No. Well, eventually I hope. I’m moving to Colorado.”

“Ah! Is there a special someone waiting for you there?”

“Um…No. I’m starting a new job there.”

“Don’t tell me…Elementary school teacher. I know they’re always short of teachers. I’m sure you’ll do great.”

“Actually, aeronautical engineer at Lockheed Martin.”

“Oh!” The man frowned. “Well, what made you choose that?”

The way he said that, it sounded like he was asking why she’d bought fried cricket clusters at the Iowa State Fair instead of French fries.

“I’ve always been interested in space. I used to make space ships out of Legos and calculate their trajectories to Mars.”

The man laughed. “And what does your boyfriend think of that?”

“Um…I don’t have one.”

“Oh. Married, then?”

“No.” Was he hitting on her? Surely he was way too old for that. “I’m not particularly interested in having a boyfriend or getting married.”

“Really? Now, that can’t possibly be true—a pretty girl like you? What makes you say you’re not interested in marriage? What about kids? Surely you want kids!”

“No husband, no kids. I’ve got other plans for my life—a career that doesn’t really fit in with a family.”

He laughed and Belinda realised he didn’t believe her. He was probably some crazy religious guy, like the one who had accosted her mother once in the mall, praising her for producing children because “God has called mankind to go forth and multiply.” He probably had a poor, harried wife at home with a dozen kids underfoot.

“And you? Are you married?” she asked to turn the conversation away from herself.

“Aw, me? Nah. Married to my business.”

 

_____________________

 

Jeff took his seat on the plane—12A—a window seat. He had just finished his Masters degree in aerospace engineering. Graduating top of his class, he’d had his pick of jobs. In the end, he’d chosen Lockheed Martin, not just because of the job, but also because it was located in Colorado.

A man sat down next to him. He smiled, and they shared a greeting as he buckled himself in.

Jeff grinned as the plane accelerated down the runway. For the first time in his life, he was leaving the Midwest. He was finally pursuing his dreams for real. His first real job! He was already envisioning the trajectory of his career—as carefully calculated as the trajectory of the space craft he intended to design and launch some day.

Jeff had always been obsessed with space. He had asked for a star chart for his sixth birthday, and created a scale model of the solar system as a science project in first grade. He excelled in math and physics in high school. He had been accepted at MIT, but his parents couldn’t afford the tuition. Instead, he had attended Iowa State University, where he had earned a full scholarship for both his undergraduate and graduate degrees.

As the plane reached cruising altitude, Jeff relaxed into his seat and watched the patchwork of Iowa farmland pass below. He couldn’t wait to see the mountains of Colorado. He would learn to ski, and maybe rock climb, too.

His thoughts were interrupted by the man next to him. He was older than Jeff—in Jeff’s eyes, ancient, though he was probably only in his mid-fifties. He was well-dressed and unexceptional-looking.

“You headed to the ski fields?” the man asked.

“No. Well, eventually I hope. I’m moving to Colorado.”

“Ah! Is there a special someone waiting for you there?”

“Um…No. I’m starting a new job there.”

“Don’t tell me…Elementary school teacher. I know they’re always short of teachers. I’m sure you’ll do great.”

“Actually, aeronautical engineer at Lockheed Martin.”

“Oh!” The man frowned. “Well, what made you choose that?”

The way he said that, it sounded like he was asking why Jeff had bought fried cricket clusters at the Iowa State Fair instead of French fries.

“I’ve always been interested in space. I used to make space ships out of Legos and calculate their trajectories to Mars.”

The man laughed. “And what does your girlfriend think of that?”

“Um…I don’t have one.”

“Oh. Married, then?”

“No.” Was he hitting on him? Surely he was way too old for that. “I’m not particularly interested in having a girlfriend or getting married.”

“Really? Now, that can’t possibly be true—a handsome guy like you? What makes you say you’re not interested in marriage? What about kids? Surely you want kids!”

“No wife, no kids. I’ve got other plans for my life—a career that doesn’t really fit in with a family.”

He laughed and Jeff realised he didn’t believe him. He was probably some crazy religious guy, like the one who had accosted his mother once in the mall, praising her for producing children because “God has called mankind to go forth and multiply.” He probably had a poor, harried wife at home with a dozen kids underfoot.

“And you? Are you married?” Jeff asked to turn the conversation away from himself.

“Aw, me? Nah. Married to my business.”

 

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