Journalism

Lost in America Part One

Cassidy Gordon flipped through photos of urns with her mom, trying to figure out which one to bury her in.

“What yurn you like, mom? I like this one.” She pointed to a lavishly decorated Egyptian-style urn. “This one’s so cool!”

“Hell no. I’m not gettin’ buried in that. That’s stupid.”

Cassidy flipped through more pictures and settled on a simpler design. It was nice — pretty and practical. It was one of the last conversations Cassidy ever had with her mom.

Six months later, she’s standing hardfaced in a practice lot in Springfield, IL, surrounded by parking cones. The sunrise lights up the bright pink breast cancer ribbon needled in her forearm. At 21 she’s too young for most trucking companies, but this has been her dream since she was a girl. Her mom wanted her to be a doctor. When she passed, she left Cassidy just enough money to enroll in truck driver training at Lincoln Land Community College, and Cassidy forwarded the entire amount.

She’s 21 and a woman, so she’s as headstrong as any pair of nuts. “The world is filled with dangerous people,” she shrugs. Constantly she asks instructors about dog-size restrictions, weapons, tire thumpers, etc. She asks about the mud splashes on the tractor wheels. She asks what you would do if you ran a truck into a bear in the woods. Asks these things in great detail. Her tireless investigation into the world is a vast and defensive survival technique. It’s preemptive. Stubborn. Scared. Her mom died, and she will live. It makes her both the most insufferable and popular person in truck driver training.

It’s hard to say what attracts Cassidy to trucking. “It just seems like it’ll work,” she says. But certainly there’s something to getting the hell out of Assumption, IL, the tiny town in which she currently lives. Her relationship with her father is less than stellar. “I’d like him if he wasn’t such an asshole.” Her relentless practicality born from her mother’s death was interpreted as uncaring by her family, cleaving a rift, and now she feels truly alone.

She asks every recruiter who comes in, “What if you don’t want to come home?” They always hesitate for a second before collecting themselves.

Cassidy in the morning climbs into a cab, small and with narrowed eyes. She dreams of travel, but not the way you do. Not to go, but to leave.

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