We ride toward the late August noon
six hours into a bus ride across the northern plains.
I’ve been awake since yesterday,
nervous that I would sleep through the 4 a.m. alarm.
I watch the silvery backs of corn stalks
and the rows of soybeans and alfalfa flicker past,
between the punctuation of the telephone poles.
I fidget with my silver necklace,
My grandmother’s cross
Mine now that I have graduated.
A man stumbles
among the back seats,
exclaiming something about the Great Sioux Nation,
the vanished buffalo,
and ghost dances.
I’ve never traveled this far alone
And I have no idea what to expect when I finally arrive.
There’s nothing in Chicago for me, not yet.
I have change for the phone.
And the number of my friend’s older sister,
carefully folded and zipped into my wallet.
We stop at a dairy farm.
Wet-eyed Herefords amble
toward a red barn.
A midnight blue silo
rises into the blue American sky.
Three men get on.
One settles next to me.
“We ride this Trailways
Tuesdays and Thursdays,” he says.
“From our farm to two towns over.
We pick up the swing shift
for a little extra cash.”
I glance over.
His eyes are as blue as a Minnesota lake
and his dairyman’s voice
is low and soft,
used to gentling cows for milking.
His dirty cap says DeKalb Seed.
His plaid flannel shirt is faded,
cut off and fraying over his shoulder.
I tell him about Chicago.
The sister with an apartment room for me
near the ballpark.
He says that I’ll like Wrigley field.
He and his brothers go in every summer.
“See,” he says, waving toward his brother’s back.
“Ron’s always wearing his Cubbies cap.”
“You’ll be all right,” he says.
“It’ll all work out.”
“I guess you are probably right,” I answer.
We ride in silence.
I drowse, finally.
And I fall asleep, my cheek against his flannel shoulder.
The fields fly past
toward the future.