I play Reckless Kelly the first hour. I don't know why. It's tradition, I guess. It keeps my spirits up when I'm feeling down.
Allison tells me I'm a creature of habit, and it's true. I do the same things over and over again until I'm sick of them, and then I do them some more. Allison tells me I'm compulsive. I guess she's right.
Oklahoma doesn't look much different from Texas. Long, straight, and flat, the road goes on forever. I should have got a new set of tires before I left, but things are tight. I figured I'd stretch one more trip out of these. That's just the way I am.
It's amazing how one or two thoughtless decisions can cause so many problems down the road.
Allison tells me I'm thick. She says if I'd spend even a second thinking things through before I did them, my life would be a lot less complicated afterward.
I know she's right.
I'm heading to Salina. We used to live there with my sister-in-law years ago. It's okay, but really, it's just another place that isn't Texas. But it's where Allison calls home nowadays, so I drive there to see her when I can.
It took her years to forgive me. One or two thoughtless decisions ruined everything.
I used to sit outside her house, just waiting, even when she said I wasn't welcome. I used to sit with her in a diner, trying to talk through the silence. It took years, years, but I kept it up. Some things are worth it.
Oklahoma City is the biggest place I pass through. Not much to it, really, but it breaks up the trip.
I stop for gas outside Guthrie. My bald tires are starting to show threads. I don't care much about getting back, I'll find a way, but I need to get there.
Allison tells me I'm penny wise and pound foolish.
I put in some Eli Young and start singing with the band. I saw them once at Billy Bobs, back in my careless, wild days.
Honestly, sometimes I miss those days.
Allison says it's good I gave up the booze and running around. She says that men like me usually die alone in broken down trailers and I know she's right. But I wouldn't mind seeing the band again, just for old times' sake.
I gave Allison their CD last year. She said they sounded too Texan for her and I asked, what's wrong with Texas? She laughed and said, nothing, if that's where you're from.
It's five and a half hours from Gainesville, Texas to Salina, Kansas, but honestly, they're worlds apart.
I asked Allison to come back down to Texas with me, but she just smiled. Allison says she's not from Texas anymore. She's a Midwestern girl through and through. She says I ought to move up to Kansas, but I know that wouldn't work out.
Outside Wichita, I hear the thump, thump, thump and I know my sins have once again caught up with me. I change the tire fast enough, but now I'm driving on one of those mini-tires that you're not supposed to go more than fifty miles on.
Allison's right. I am thick. But I'm going on to Salina, regardless.
I stop at my usual Waffle House for dinner and Annie hovers about, chatting and refilling my coffee cup. I've gotten to know Annie pretty well from all my stops. She's lonely like I am, but we never do more than talk.
When I walk out, I see that a second tire's flat and I'm stuck. I kick the tire and go back in feeling sorry for myself. I'm tempted to ask Annie if she knows where I can stay for the night. But just this once, I think for a second first.
"I need to get to Salina," I say. "My daughter Allison, she's waiting for me."
Annie doesn't hesitate. "Here," she says, handing me her keys. "Take my car."
"But how will you get home?"
"I'll get home."
"I've been watching you come through here for years," Annie says. "I wish my ex would try half as hard. You're a good man."
Honestly, the thought never occurred to me before.
I take her keys and walk out. I gaze at the clear blue sky and the cornfields. I glance back at Annie. And a wild thought occurs to me.
Maybe I could live here, after all.
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