We were in Oklahoma. After behaving for 6,000 miles, from Tucson to Southwest Harbor, Maine, heading back west, the dependable Subaru konked out on the side of I-40 in Checotah. It was my second time in the OK state but I had never met anyone like 18-year-old Callie.
“I’m an expert at packing the truck,” she told us — flashing her gorgeous smile — at her dad’s automotive repair place on the outskirts of town. Our deal with her dad was to retire the Subie for scrap metal, plus we’d get a ride to Tulsa with all our stuff and pick up a rental car at the airport.
“I found my people,” Callie blurted after directing the packing, hopping into the back seat of the truck beside me.
“What did you say?” I asked.
“Oh nothing,” she answered. Maybe she was doing an anthropological experiment, getting to know people from outside of Oklahoma. We’ll never know.
Callie’s a keen observer. And she’s a planner. She has a spreadsheet with four variations of her future wedding, one for each season. “I’ll plan the whole wedding and let the guy pick the season,” she gushed. “I’ve been working on this since I was 10. You know, a cousin passed the chain over my arm. I’m going to have four boys.”
More than anything else, Callie’s a cheerleader. “Isn’t this the cutest little town?” she asked as we drove through Haskell, a small town that looked like so many others we had seen. “I just love it!”
“Will you be going to college?” I wanted to know, restraining myself from being too specific, like asking if she wanted to get out of Oklahoma, see other parts of the country. She started naming all of the community and state colleges, most of which I had never heard of. Callie wants to study psychology.
“I have family all over the place,” she volunteered.
Callie meant in Oklahoma. Her world. Don’t I have my own little world too? Don’t we all?
Her dad’s other business is selling guns (one of her “funnest” activities is shooting cardboard cutouts of people). She likes to shop in a Christian clothing store (what exactly are “Christian” clothes?). She prefers to live at home when she’s in college. She’s not annoyed that her parents have a tracker on her cell phone to always know her whereabouts.
I can’t imagine hanging out with anyone more different than me. But when we arrived at the airport Callie and I kept telling her mom where to turn, then determined we were both control freaks. We laughed. We bonded.
I wanted to take a photo of Callie and her mom in front of their truck, proudly displaying its Oklahoma license plate.
“Oh, I’m so glad you liked Oklahoma!” said Callie. I hugged her. I’ll never forget her.