My mother is afraid for me, but my stepfather says, “If he wants to go, let him.”
So I’m on the plane alone. A stewardess with white skin and orange hair keeps leaning around her work station to smile and wink at me.
The man in the middle seat has gas and smells bad, like cow manure. He wears a smudged ring and I wonder if he’s someone’s father.
Where I’m flying to is flat farmland. Acres of wheat. Tractors and combines. In the winter the snows get so deep that locals drive snowmobiles on the streets instead of cars. I’ve never been, but I know because my blood father wrote me long letters that I’d find torn up in my parent’s trash.
When I tell the stewardess I’ll be nine in June, her smile lifts like it’s a hard trick she’s doing. “I’ve got a daughter just your age. You’re pretty brave to be flying by yourself.” I don’t agree, but I don’t say so either. I just think I’m maybe desperate.
I saw an old film reel of a man walking across the wing of an airplane as it flew in the sky. After a while it got boring, but then the clip changed and he was pedaling a unicycle while gigantic gusts threaten to toss him off. My stepfather called the man a jackass and said, “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen.”
The stewardess brings me a ginger ale. The bubbles won’t stop popping over the rim of the plastic glass. “What are you going to do in North Dakota?”
I tell her my real father lives there. I tell her I’ve not seen him in person that I can remember. I don’t tell her that my stepfather hates me and I hate him back. I tell her lots of things, except how I’m on this bird and I’m never returning.
When I look out my window, it’s a wall of white and the clouds have all but sucked up the wing. I wait for it to reappear, for the world to reorder and make sense of itself again.