Heading back, watching the night unfold, watching the towns approach, slide past,
right-angle layouts, the bright stitching of main streets against invisible landscape.
I can guess the names of the bigger towns: Rockford. DeKalb. Galesburg. Iowa City. Cedar Rapids. All maybes. Nothing big enough to suggest Des Moines or Omaha. Then the smaller towns. Some I’ve passed through, others are just names I’ve picked up along the way. Dyersville. Grinnell. Ottumwa. Story City. Stanhope. Storm Lake. Then across the invisible Missouri: Grand Island. McCook. Hastings. Ogallala.
But most without any names that I know, though I’d love to learn them. All down there somewhere in that thinning web of settlements as we move west, each town throwing its main-drag strands of light into the dark. Island universes in uncounted numbers.
[Translation: United Flight 385, Chicago to Oakland. Took off 8:45 p.m. CDT, landed 10:45 p.m. PDT.]