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