Young Men on the Road

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Tristan is flying internationally by himself for the first time.

He’s 15 and couldn’t be more excited for his arrival in Pittsburgh, PA, just before Thanksgiving. Snow and all, there is absolutely nowhere he’d rather be come tomorrow night.

He packs his bag full of clothes made for a long year in the eternal summer of Mexico. Steadfast items he wore everyday, holes through the shoulders and pockets ripped off the backs, he disposes. Only the rare few cleanest items, which coincidentally are the brightest as well, make the cut.

While packing, he talks about the app he has to track his flight, questions the ease of customs as he transfers in Florida, and obsesses about the width of the average person’s shoulders compared to the size of his seat. He’s looked these details up, presumably well into the night for the past 40 nights, and I would be surprised if he didn’t at least know the basics of flying the exact model of plane he’ll board tomorrow.

He’s been flying alone since he was 8. Most of the time it meant a cute stewardess gave him extra cookies while the old woman sitting next to him questioned him as to exactly why his cheeks were, indeed, so cute. Once, he found himself on an emergency landing in a military base somewhere in Colorado.

I’m kind of proud of him. For a father obsessed with traveling, sending your boy off to another country (even if it is just your homeland) is like watching your wolf pup learn how to tear a fresh salmon from a Kodiak’s mouth.

Right?