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Pretty used to being with Gwyneth

Regrets that her mother did not smoke

Frank in all directions

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

Simply cannot go back to them

Roll your eyes at Samuel Beckett

John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion

Metaphors with eyes

Life of Mary MacLane

Circle what it is you want

Not really talking about women, just Diane

Felicity's disguise

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Things You May Not Know


I visit fourteen countries in one summer. I stay awake for 36 hours, from Washington to Iceland to London, to avoid jet lag. I meet a woman name Kari on the airplane who is also traveling alone. She is from Seattle, she is a graphic designer, she is wearing white Nike hightops for the duration of her six-month trip and making a stop-motion video out of pictures of her feet near landmarks and other things. I like her immediately. In Nice I accidentally see the Tour de France and meet a man who is reporting on it for the BBC. He lets me appear in a shot he takes in nearby Eze. A retired chauffeur who does not like Americans offers to take me back down to the beach and I go with him. When I get out he hands me his business card and asks if I will write to his wife. She likes Americans. In each city I tell others how tourist sites do not impress me, but Segrada Familia stops me still in a crosswalk. I dance alone to Miike Snow with the windows open during everyone's siesta. I meet Kari again in Budapest and at the top of a castle over wine we pose questions for ourselves. Why are you doing this alone? In Vienna, my host has fourteen plastic razors. I count them each time I shower. Four of them are green. Her father died a few months ago and so did all of her plants. I throw out their remains, stain and varnish her patio furniture, help her buy new flowers. She teaches me how to make soft boiled eggs and the Viennese words for "I do not allow myself to be pushed." When I leave I want to tell her I love her. I don't like Berlin when I get there. The couple I stay with in Amsterdam fights in German, so I spend a lot of time at the museums. At first I can't figure out if they are fighting or just speak very loud, but I know the word "fuck" and she keeps using it. Rembrandt had a massive taxidermy collection. Van Gogh shot himself in a cornfield. Somewhere in the theatrics of his ear and third grade art class I missed this part. The canals are beautiful. It is gay pride week and everything is rainbow. A gay cowboy in pink chaps riding a jet pack zooms twenty feet out of the water in front of the Anne Frank museum.

It takes me 36 hours to get home and I am jetlagged for a week. I visit the Washington Monument, the park by my house, four of the Smithsonian museums. I wash my sheets and buy a new bottle of my old favorite shampoo. I try running. Anything to feel like me and home again.

I have 23 aunts and uncles. I could tell you which were through marriage, but most of their weddings happened before I was born or when I was very young and bloodlines meant nothing. They still mean nothing. My friend Kristin is more my sister than my brother is my brother. I used to get so tired, so drunk sometimes, that I would escape to the bathroom and roll my eyes as far up as I could with my lids open. I have never had relish. I can't do a cartwheel. Whenever I see a Hispanic or black kid in my neighborhood I assume I have taught them and often I am correct. People smile at you when children that aren't the same skin color as you come running over, squealing your name. They do not smile at you when they think you are wearing a weird outfit, usually something all black, but they smile when the kids run to you. People often think I am safe. Children and animals are correct. People are often wrong. I have been mistaken for a mirror, a punching bag, a solution. I have never been the solution. I can drive a car better than many men I know and some of them grant me this. Some of them tell me about each car they see approaching from the passenger seat. I try not to use the words "I know." When the leaves turn brown I am sad for days. When my friend died all of the leaves were changing and it felt unfair. I stood in the middle of a bridge and looked at all of the orange and red and green and for spent an hour calling each tree ugly. My first car is a 1998 Toyota Corolla. I have it for two weeks when I rear-ended a rabbi pulling his van into a church parking lot because I am looking at the snowflakes on my windshield. My car looks like an accordion, the airbag never comes out, and I am fine. The rabbi invites me in for tea he has recently brought back from Israel. Good things happen to me and I wonder if I notice them as often as they come. My high school boyfriend takes a job at the school where I student teach. I have not seen him in six years. He buys me a donut each morning and tells me he thought there would always be something between us. I tell him maybe it is the donut. I have a $2.80 topaz ring from Forever 21 that I have convinced many people I inherited from my mother. When I was seventeen my mother told me I was probably too big for her wedding dress. She had been very tiny back then. I hate taking out the trash. I am allergic to almost everything scented, but I love the way clothes smell after I've lent them to a friend. I am bad at sharing clothing. I have never willingly offered someone a few of my french fries. I will refuse to go somewhere I really want to go if someone asks me there and I think company will ruin the experience. I am happiest when I am wearing a sweatshirt. The sun is setting earlier. Three boys in my alley are playing a game where one aims a deflated basketball at the others. When one gets cut, the other shouts out his injury, and the third assesses. He is fine. No one watches them and they do not need it. Children have the ways of adults when no one is there to see. There are already brown leaves on the ground here. I am allergic to apples now; I can't have cider. I buy the last of the peaches at the farmer's market instead. I practice calligraphy and put on the wool socks I bought in Iceland. I wonder if home will ever be a place. I hate being interrupted when I am writing.

Amanda Oliver is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Washington D.C. You can find her website here. She last wrote in these pages about her parents.

Photographs by the author.

"Fog in the House of Lightbulbs" - Radical Face (mp3)

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