I got a call last night from K., my fighter pilot friend I met in Peru in August. He left a message saying he was “just checking up” on me.
It still astounds me how different we are — he grew up on a farm in central North Carolina, is a conservative Christian who went on a mission trip to Burma, flies F-18 fighter jets strapped with bombs for the Navy and lives in a big house in Fresno, Calif. with a garden and a puppy. Oh and his vision is 20-8 I believe he said. Or 20-12. I’m a peace-loving liberal journalist from the suburbs from Detroit who never goes to church (grew up Episcopalian) and I live in an small apartment in the heart of D.C. And I wear contacts.
But when I hear from him with his Southern accent (and he says words like “dang” and “heck”) the messages make me smile. Not only does it remind me that I can make friends (we were on a four-day hiking and camping trip to Machu Picchu together), but it also reminds me that even opposites can click with the same fun-loving demeanor.
Not only that, but there is something about him that makes me feel safe. When we passed our highest point in the Andes, we stopped, sat against a rock and ate a snack. We had oranges and the rind was tough. K. pulled out his Army knife, cut into the rind and peeled away the orange skin. He used his GPS to give us the longitudes and latitudes and how high we were (15,300 feet). And when I was almost kicked off the train from Ollyantaytambo to Aguas Caliente for having the wrong ticket, he said, “Put your bag down here, we’ll take care of it.”
Even more than that, he has an “aw shucks” innocence about him that’s real. He’s just a good guy, and I have no doubts about it.
I’m glad to have a friend like K. who “just checks up” on me.