Plane Cowboy

by Shandhini Raidoo


The man in a yellow shirt behind me

His head too close to mine above

worn navy-blue faux-leather,

above the crackling of a boarding announcement

Speaks with a lisping drawl to the woman

Next to him through his shiny braces.

I miss the South.

Some years ago I sat next to a bona fide cowboy

On a plane from Denver to nowhere,

He wore his hat inside the plane.

We talked, as people do on planes, of all

we could think of to fill the time (except

The things one knows one shouldn’t discuss).

It was his second flight ever

(the first being from nowhere to Denver)

home from an interview for a job as a ranch manager

A position coveted by many cowboys, I learn.

Once they moved, he told me proudly, his wife

Would home school their daughter.

I kept my opinions on home schooling to myself.

We talked about the wisdom teeth I was having pulled

a few days later—he kindly warned me of dry sockets

and advised that I don’t go horseback riding

For at least a week afterwards.

I assured him there was little chance of that.

He asked me what I do (as people who

Have just met each other ask)

I told him about my college classes

Plans for medical school and other

future lofty doctor aspirations.

He asked if I planned to treat humans or animals.

I think he was disappointed with my answer.

The woman next to the man

Behind me guffaws at his joking Southern charm

We’re gathering our things

Summoned by numbers

Boarding a plane to somewhere else.

Originally published in This Land: Spring 2016