We darted out from the wooded grove and into a flat, open expanse, where fields of canola and corn and fallow land spread far into the flat horizon, studded with silver mountains and the blue sky was laced with wisps of white cloud. Pale shades of yellow blended with deep greens and red dirt. Deep grooves in the earth ran parallel to each other, each without ending or beginning on either side of the road. The golden line we followed stretched onwards against the hot asphalt, snaking round shallow coulees and rolling hills.
As the engine hummed and tires beat against the pavement, you watched the fence posts flash by too fast to see the names on the mailboxes from the roadside. Occasionally, we’d pass an abandoned farmhouse occupied by squatters, or a wooden barn with the roof collapsed and the paint chipped. There was a scarecrow in one of the fields. Ugly, black crows rested upon its arms. They had picked the eyes out and the hat had long since blown away in the wind. You turned your head to look at me, your light blue eyes were subdued by the bright sun behind you. It looked as though you had been crying.
I remember in the winter, when we had first walked down to the green space together. Around and around the track we walked, hours upon hours, until our conversation started to falter and you split and left me standing alone in the field. The snow danced around you as you walked away, out from the lighted paths and into the night. The look you gave me as you glanced back over your shoulder was the same you gave me then, in the car: your face was still darkened, but I could see the outlines of your furrowed brow and pursed lips, and your head was surrounded by the bright earth in the window behind you, a halo of rapeseed and wheat.
This was a look of lonely hurt, of fear, and of confusion. It marked a coming change – a new era in our lives. Red lights flashed up ahead, signalling the approaching cargo train. The striped barriers descended. The engine driver waved his hat at us as he passed, and a deep rattle persisted as the flatcars moved by carrying no containers on their back. We sat idling and watched them go, and talked for half an hour or so until we had made up our minds. The decision was reached there at that silent junction, long after the bars had risen and the slow heavy train had disappeared from sight and slipped quietly between the mountains.