Someone once told me angels sang in heaven. The tall man with the black book clasped to his chest greeted us every Sunday. He talked of judgment and error and sin. He talked of angels. I sang in the choir but no one told me I was an angel. They informed me that I was plain as Jane, whoever she was. I imagined someone windswept with a rugged and ruddy face; someone that lived in the grasses and rolling hills of the Dakotas, where pines give way to prairie. I imagined she had short hair and wore a worn felt hat, cowboy like and a long duster coat. Or maybe she had one long single braid down her back, not thick and blond but thin and mousy brown, dusty. Her brow was sweaty and caked with dirt. She rode most often on horses but sometimes in pickup trucks. This, I thought, was not so bad. I looked forward to being like this plain Jane.
There are other things I was told. To work hard, study often but not to ask too many questions: to be quiet; to do as I’m told; to not complain; to be nice. Just be nice please and smile. Is that so hard? Is that really so hard? I went looking for plain Jane. I thought naturally she would be somewhere west of here. First I rode my bike out from my suburb, off into the verdant hills and forested valleys, out to the small ponds and open lakes, past the last shopping mall and overpass, into the place of my wild heart. I looked along the edges of ponds where herons roosted, and black birds sang. I lay in the grasses and stared at the sky, watched clouds drift until I could go home again.
I got older and still they said I was like Jane, not beautiful or exceptionally bright. I was encouraged to get training of some sort. Expectations of marriage were low. Oh how I wished to be light and fragrant. I wished to be citrus. I desired deliciousness. I desired embellishment even as I searched for plain Jane. I rode my bike everywhere. I was unremarkable, ordinary, basic, plain and simple. I hardly talked. I took an interest test that recommended merchant marine or artist or the building trades as future employment. Then they realized I was female so x ray technician was recommended. I bought a train ticket and went west.
Under moonlight I crossed the Dakota plains. Still I spied angels everywhere, even here on the train. Blond and beautiful – with full red lips, the kind that spilled laughter all about themselves, golden peels of succulent mirth, the kind eager young men would founder upon and enslave themselves for. I watched. Jane, Jane, Jane I thought – where are you? As if she might gallop past me on her horse; whipping up a frenzy of grit and grime, thundering across the prairie like she owned the place, as if she could stop the train like some Wild West robber and steal everything, even all that sweetness the angels spilt on themselves. Maybe she’d spy me through that window and pull her hat off her head, whoop and holler, wave for me to come on out. Come on out she’d holler. Come on out. It ain’t so bad out here. Not bad at all. What are you waiting for?