Jessica Smith

The Morning Plane to Oklahoma

​The plane to Oklahoma City was cancelled at 7:55 a.m., and Hannah wondered, was this a sign? Should she even be going? But there she was—bags already checked, committed—so she stood in line to be rerouted through Atlanta, then took a slow walk around the terminal to kill time before her new flight. She browsed magazines and personal sundries. She tried on all the variations of neck-pillows. She bought a pack of gum. She rode the people mover up the terminal then back down.
At eleven, she headed to her new gate. She wanted to find a seat where she would not be bothered. She had no interest in making small talk about knitting or dogs or the weather. She just wanted silence.
At the gate, there was an open seat next to a teenager wearing headphones. He was deeply engrossed in his phone and didn’t even glance her way when she sunk into the chair next to him, but then, just as she brought out a magazine, he pushed back his headphones. “You were on the flight that got cancelled,” he said.
She smiled and nodded, moving her attention back to the magazine.
“Why are you going to Oklahoma City?” he asked.
The kid was seventeen, maybe eighteen, and greasy almost everywhere. An oily sheen coated his hair, forehead, nose, and chin. It could have been a hormonal thing or a not-showering thing. Hannah couldn’t tell.
“I’m visiting friends,” she said, which was mostly true. She would be staying with her college roommate, but really, the primary focus of her trip was to sleep with a boy she used to sleep with in college.
The sex was a revenge thing, which Hannah knew was stupid, but she didn’t care. She was going to do it anyway. It was a response. It was something she could do in a situation where she was otherwise powerless. After all, two months ago, Sam, Hannah’s boyfriend, had taken off with a large chunk of Hannah’s savings account. Also, her cousin Ginny. It seemed they went off the grid—they couldn’t be reached, and no one had a clue where they’d gone—until pictures surfaced on Instagram of the new couple cavorting through Beijing. There they were with bowls full of steaming noodles. There they were in a market, holding pickled pigs’ ears up to their own. There they were making kissy-faces at the Temple of Heaven. Hannah couldn’t bring herself to un-follow Sam’s account, even though it meant she started each morning looking at a picture that made her want to die.
Never been this happy! was the caption beneath a picture of Sam and Ginny at the Great Wall. When Hannah had seen that, her first response was to throw her phone across the room, where it potted itself in the soil of an unloved ficus. Her second response was to book a flight to Oklahoma.
Now, the boy sitting next to her was waiting. It was clear he wanted her to inquire why he was travelling, and she could find no way around it. It was too late to ignore him.
“Why are you going to Oklahoma?” she asked.
He kicked the duffel bag at his feet. Something inside clanked. “I enlisted,” he said.
“You enlisted?” she said.
He grinned, wearing his youth so flagrantly it was painful.
“What did your mother say?” Hannah asked.
His face fell. “My mother can’t really say anything,” he said. “I’m eighteen.”
“Eighteen,” Hannah said. “My God.” She stared at him: too-big clothes, clunky feet, dirty fingernails, a crease of worry on his forehead. “Is this your first time on a plane?” she asked. He nodded, and Hannah flattened a hand to her heart. “Jesus,” she said. “And when you land, they’re going to give you a gun.”
“Well, not as soon as I land,” he said. “I mean, there’s, like, some tests and stuff we do first.” He leaned on her armrest. “Are you some kind of crazy kumbaya gun control person?”
“Not exactly,” Hannah said. She’d grown up in the country, and her father and grandfather were avid hunters. She understood guns and why people might want them. But still, if taking guns away would do something good—like keep people from getting shot in the face while attending trigonometry or getting medical care at a Planned Parenthood—then, fine! Take them! Have them all! But that wasn’t a conversation she w