The moonlight helps delineate the night earth from the night sky, as the train passes through the countryside. Sometimes Black-eyed Susans and bramble flicker against the thick glass, calling of the prairie unseen. Palsied shapes of trees form along the dusky horizon, seen by little more than the absence of stars. Closer, lone farm lights appear out of the inkiness, never casting much light into the thicker shadow, before they, too, are taken by the train’s flight. I listen to the horn blow as it comes to crossings or passes through small Midwestern towns. Rocking, rocking, a steady rocking, should put me to sleep, but my mind has yet to find the rhythm of slumber. Moths and night bugs expanding and contracting around a street light still lingers in my sight from the last stop. A single liquor store to accompany the jaundiced light on a dirt road. A set of stairs, but no platform to climb into the silver car and no crossing gates or ringing bells apparent. Only tail lights of a pickup truck disappearing into a field and our only passenger, a wisp of a girl with spindly legs vanishing off the stair into the car ahead. Oddly, it is the tail lights disappearing into what looked a cornfield and not the girl that still haunts me.
Faces loom in my cabin, sleeping or peering into devices, but no voice is heard down the aisles. We are together, all of us, and apart. I turn to watch the ghostly apparitions of silos, grain elevators and roadside churches come and go in the darkness. They, like my thoughts, are but a moment on a broader landscape horribly vague at this hour. A skunk or opossum slips beneath an oil tanker in a passing lot, but we are past it before I can be sure. Through the glass I see an eighteen wheeler full of cattle and wonder if it heads for the slaughter house, as exhaustion makes the mind melancholy. Passengers may sleep, but the moon slips between the clouds, keeping me company, as if it too, traveled the same tracks. I am comforted and left lonely on this midnight ride, Chicago hours off. So I write in the dim cabin light and listen to the horn blow, with miles of track to go.