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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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Entries in britt julious (4)


In Which This Often Delays The Life We Want

painting by Tadeusz Bilecki

All This Desire


The Naughty Sins of a Saint.

Being Barron.

Forgive Me Father For I Have Loved.

I wish these were the titles of my journal, but instead, they are a few of many books I keep tucked away inside of my kindle. They are not featured in The New York Review of Books or excerpted in the New Yorker. No, they are cheap, quick, impulsive buys meant for late nights when I am lonely.

That happens a lot.

At my old, terrible day job, a girl I never particularly liked briefly mentioned that she secretly worked on a romance novel.

“Really?” I asked.

“I feel like I can tell you this,” she said.

“And why is that?” I asked. “Am I wrong in thinking that you don’t like them, too?” she questioned back. Like me, she was an English major. And like me, she kept the public books and the private books separate. You know, White Teeth by Zadie Smith on a black wooden bookshelf in our living rooms. The President’s Girlfriend by Mallory Monroe on a locked Kindle. But I wasn’t going to let her know about that. Some things we just keep to ourselves … at least until right now.

I turned away in a huff.

“I have to get back to work,” I mumbled. That was the last conversation we ever had. The next week, she moved to a different department, and a month later, she left the company.

“I don’t feel…STIMULATED here,” she used to say a lot.

“Like, what am I doing here?” she once asked.

And yeah, what ARE you doing here? I wanted to ask. SOME of us appreciate our jobs, appreciate the fragility of this situation in the face of this job market.

That was what I used to tell myself. I tried to, at least. But within two months, just a few days after she was gone, I began applying for new jobs and writing whenever and wherever I could. Maybe she was right. If writing – and reading - a romance novel was a method of escape for her, who was I to judge? Especially, you know, because I read them too.

I began reading first romance, then erotic novels during my senior year of college. My interest stemmed from a love of fan fiction and a desire to both write and read beyond the characters I saw on the screen.

I am one of those women you hear about, those weirdos, those freaks who sit in front of their computer screens and keep the fantasies of our favorite characters alive. I guess I understand Harry Potter fan fiction or Twilight fan fiction. I’d never read them though because that’s not me. Those stories are rooted in fantasy. And the fantastical breeds the fantastical.

I prefer expanding on the mundane and the regular. I would rather create a reality that seems possible and in that way, make it more of mine. I have written stories about My So-Called Life and Gilmore Girls, stories about Love & Basketball and other romantic comedies. And also, perhaps worst of all, if you dive deep enough into the archives of the Lizzie McGuire subsection of the website Fanfiction.net, you might be able to find a story I wrote about a love triangle between Lizzie and best friends Gordo and Miranda.

On the show, Lizzie’s internal thoughts were expressed through an animated version of herself. In my fan fiction, this animated self talked about “falling in love” and “making love” and “being in love.”

I was 12. I had barely been kissed. Well, not truly, not of my own accord. But in my stories, there was sex and violence and lots and lots of yelling. These were the things that made adult life for me. This was romance. This was passion. This was a future reality.

In romance novels, I like that the men represent a validation of my fantasies and my fantasies are not merely of the physical, but also of the potential for triumph, for personal redemption, for overcoming the things about ourselves — whether articulated and open or deeply stored within — that often delay the lives we want and the people we want to be.

I think of myself as a woman coming back to her optimism. It was lost for a number of reasons in a number of different ways, but a part of me seeks out an interaction with the world that makes risks possible and chances worth taking. What I fear rests in me is a deeply-ingrained thought practice that ultimately makes living and loving seem like things other people do. I used to think, you are not happy because you are not meant to be happy. You are not in love because you are not meant to be in love. Instead, you get … everything else.

Like ONE.

One summer, the season came late. At a bus stop, I rested against the brick wall of a local bank and waited to head north after a long day at work. A man crossed the street. His face was angry and his eyes bore into mine.

"Those shorts are too short," he said.

I’d never heard that before, at least from a stranger. Every summer before that moment, I thought those same thoughts, worn down by interpretations of flesh. By September, I anticipate the fall. I like tights, I start to think. They reflect my quietness, the “goodness” that exists in me that this man implied did not. I am sexual, but the world does not need to know. I am sexual, and you can’t judge me for it.

"Too short?" I asked that day at the bus stop.

"You look like a slut."

Like TWO.

Years ago, my mother and I went to a Chernin’s Shoe Outlet on the West Side of Chicago to pick up a pair of day-to-day gym shoes. The young man helping me gave these long looks that complicated his deep brown eyes and thick eyelashes. He smiled a lot and was thin, slightly gawky, but in a charming way that made me wish that I would meet a man like that when I was OLDER, when I knew more.

He took off my gym shoes and gave me a small foot massage. I turned around, cautious, but soon realized that my mother wasn’t looking. She was nowhere to be found. I panicked, assuming she had left me in the store with the young man who was quickly moving away from charming to lascivious. He licked his lips and

THREE … it reminded me of a family member from down south that I met, earlier that year, at a reunion.

"I bet you don’t remember me!" the older man said that afternoon at the reunion as I sat on a bench, in the shade, eating a plate full of macaroni and cheese.

"Nope!" I said annoyed, and turned away.

That day at the park, the older man hovered above me and I did my best not to look up, afraid of what he would say or do next to grab my attention. Hoverers always recognize those who hate hovering. They sense it. They take advantage of it. They manipulate those who cower.

"I’m talkin’ to you!" he shouted. He licked his full lips and smiled. I ran away.

BUT, back at the shoe store, the young man said, “You’re very sexy.”

Right then, my mother reappeared. I don’t know where she was beforehand. Perhaps she was there all along, and I didn’t notice her because I was too caught up in the moment with my new shoes and new acquaintance.

"How old are you?" she asked him angrily.

"Sixteen," he replied.

My mother grabbed my arm and squeezed tight.

"Well, she’s EIGHT, so I suggest you look somewhere else." We quickly left the store but came back. I was only wearing one shoe.

Like FOUR.

Two weeks ago, a man masturbated at me on the train. When I saw, he stood up and cornered me in my seat. When I yelled at him, he put his body on top of mine. When I tried to push him away, he kept at it. He was too big. And I am strong, very strong, but not strong enough. He looked me dead in the eye. He came on my leg.

And then he strolled away.

Like FIVE.

The time, at three a.m., when a cab driver said, “You know, if I wanted to, I could lock you in this car and do what I wanted with you.” And then he locked the door and laughed.

Like SIX.

My swim instructor.


The summer after I hit puberty. The man with the blood-shot eyes, with alcohol on his breath. The alley.

These things, they shape the way you look at life and the way you encounter the people around you. If you are like me, it stifles your freedom, creating an existence of confusion. What does it mean to be loved? What does it mean to be happy?

The black heroines in many of the novels I read are not traditionally beautiful, but they are interesting. They struggle and weep alone; keep their heads up and minds focused in private. They do a lot and feel a lot and often find peace through extraordinary circumstances that are more difficult than their lives pushing toward success and the desire to overcome a challenging society, a prejudiced society, an unforgiving society.

Last year, while sitting on my couch with my ex-boyfriend, I noticed my Kindle on my coffee table. I tried to put it away, embarrassed by what it might imply. I remembered a conversation a year ago between my friend Katie and I.

“I used to read romance novels when I hadn’t had sex,” she said.

But I had sex years and years ago. Girls like me, girls who’ve seen it all, crave something real and think we’ve found it when instead, we’ve warped our sense of reality. I dated all sorts of men. My personal stories are long and weird and represent a self wandering again and again for something that will fit if not in the pages of fantasy than through a sense of normalcy.

“I just need to think about something that works out in the end,” I said to Katie. I want happy endings.

Back in that moment with my ex, he quietly asked, “What do you have on that?”

“Games, apps … and lots of books,” I replied.

“What kind?” he asked.

“Well … mostly romance,” I said.

“Why read that when you’ve got the real thing?” he asked. But I knew how it was going to end. This was before the possessiveness, the health scares, the questioning, the ridicule. I could sense it through every inch of me.

“I just need it, OK?” I said.

The ways in which I can overcome the world at large are through myself. I can not depend on outcomes of others, but must instead push myself to work harder, to think more, to pursue more. And in my favorite novels, the heroines must overcome the limitations of affection by challenging their willingness to love and trust. When will I learn?

“I am worthy,” she said.

“I am worthy,” she said.

“I am worthy,” she said.

“I am worthy,” she said.

I took that from four different stories with four different characters who were like and unlike me. What connects them is their visibility and humanity. They are worthy. I forget that.

I am worthy too.

Britt Julious is the senior editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Chicago. You can find her website here. She is the founder of Inland.

Paintings by Tadeusz Bilecki.

"Pay Attention" - Colleen Green (mp3)

"Deeper Than Love" - Colleen Green (mp3)


In Which Too Much Performance Remains Exhausting

Of My Own Accord



In my parents’ home in the suburbs, after a stranger held me down and sexually assaulted me on the train, leaving a literal trail of his destruction on my black velvet skirt and long brown legs, I thought about how, a month and a half earlier, I would have been sitting through a long meeting at work at that exact time. I would have been keeping notes and shaking my head in disagreement and thinking about all of the things I wished I was doing instead of being at work.

A temporary pleasure would have been the ride home on public transportation with the knowledge that the day was officially over. That despite being crammed in an oversized bus rolling slowly down Chicago Avenue past the quiet, industrial warehouses of Goose Island and the quaint Cuban restaurants and the abundance of taquerias, I was near my own little home. But instead, I was alone and it was the middle of the afternoon and I was there, a foreign place, the quiet of mid afternoon.

Instead of being in the office, I am out and about in the world, trying to make sense of my decision. I always thought I would leave my job of my own accord after finding the next perfect thing. But I didn't and I couldn't. Life has never worked out the way I wanted it to and instead, I've had to recreate the things I want for myself haphazardly, shoddily, without a clear idea of what comes next and what the end product or idea or goal will look like.

I made the choice to leave, and the weaker part of me thinks that all of this, even the worst (which I've thrown out in the beginning of this essay to give it less stature than it had these last six weeks) was meant to happen for a reason. I don't know if it made me stronger, but it did make me more curious about the distance between the world in our minds and our realities. I have a few more weeks of playing into the fantasy of my imagined self before reality settles in. I am getting prepared. But hopefully, that won't be an issue.


I didn’t realize how much I would be alone when I left my old job. I met some of the greatest people I will ever know and some of the worst imaginable. I fell in love. I was challenged. But I also had to challenge myself. That had never been my reality.

I forgot how much I relied on the consistency of 9-5 to get me through the moments when I am alone, and life does not feel as warm and welcoming as it should. But it settled in soon enough and I began to notice the things around me more profoundly: the dusty covers of my myriad of books, the old containers of food in my refrigerator, the piles of laundry that were organized at some point, but only occasionally attended to during the workweek.

I am the only one responsible and accounting for my life outside of an office. This thought used to cross my mind, but not consistently. Now I think about it constantly. You are responsible for these tasks and these things and where you are, even if you resist again and again.

I live alone and always have. The older I am, the more I profoundly recognize that aloneness. Age asks of us the ability to connect with the few. It asks us to move on.

A night out never feels like enough.

Conversations have changed from, “You will be fine,” to, “What are you doing all day?” These are my friends.

I have friends who have it all and friends who are so hungry, literally. I have friends who only want the things that will give them more. I have friends who create and look at the things around them and wonder if any of it will matter.

Living alone never felt so alone. I enjoyed being able to come home to just myself. But now it is just me all of the time. You are forced to confront things about yourself that were easier to push aside because there was another impenetrable force weighing heavily on your shoulders.

photograph by dieter rehm

Sometimes I leave the house just to go to a store just to talk to someone. When you are emotionally unhappy, you cling to people who make the day better. When I ended a relationship earlier this year, I found comfort in my friends at work. Each night was lonely, but I had something  people  to look forward to everyday. Now it’s just me. That’s a lot to process. I am burdened with my own thoughts and actions. Everything is bottled up for when we are free. By then, nothing feels as grave, but also nothing feels as relevant.

I spend a lot of time in The Winchester, a local restaurant and cafe near my apartment. I’ve made acquaintance with the cafe’s employees. This is something I always do at places I like to frequent. Creating and recreating home feels necessary in a city. There are so many people here. What I need is to make sure I have found a slice of life that challenges me greatly, but also wraps me gently like my grandmother’s arms. I need to know that I can create something for myself, even if it is just a routine. I always say “Hello!” I love a good “Hello!” Talking online is not the same thing. Anyone that says so is lying. I have always been the sort of person that can’t stay in my head for two long. I slip easily into a trail of thoughts. What started off as a question in my mind morphed into a worry, a panic, a terror.

After ending a relationship, I relied on the comforts of familiar faces, people and friends I could trust. What I knew is that they would be “there,” if only because they were required to do so.

You form family and bonds out of strife. You connect with people because you need something greater than your current situation and because that stability is a life force.

I know now that there is always something to believe in during times when we think there is nothing. Life can never be black and white.

What I miss most is the compulsion to speak, the knowledge that I was heard. Everyday, I came to work and spoke to my friends and then began my day. Every moment the night before was a chance for rapturous summary. It was not about what happened so much as the need to engage with others, if only temporarily.


After a couple of weeks, my next instinct was to read one of my favorite books. I wrote that when you are lost, you should return to the works that changed your life. I don’t think it’s cliche. Favorites exist for a reason. Seeing is specific. My world is constantly informed and shaped by the voices I once knew and now hold in high, distant regard.

I pulled out my copy of Marguerite Duras’ The Lover. It is beat up, truly. The cover tore off of the seam at some point. I found it in between a stack of bills I stuffed in my black leather backpack. It fit in well, just another thing I didn’t take care of in time and must now face the consequences.

Pages are dog-eared with gusto, especially in the beginning. Despite what other people say, that is when I am most engaged with a book. I feel the need to pay attention to every page and every line. It assures me whether to keep reading. After that, the words and plots almost bleed into one another. The story situates itself in my mind. I don’t need to pay attention to everything. I am in it, completely.

photograph by dieter rehm

Like a job, the diction becomes familiar. I have developed a routine, gotten used to these people, felt connected to the ins and outs of the author’s words. I have read more now than I have in months. It is not because I am free, but because my mind craves that familiar structure of one page after another, one day after another.

I have written all over the margins and formed the basis for essays along Duras’ own thoughts. “That reminds me…” I will usually begin.

I go out more now than I ever did before. The absence of a full-time schedule makes even the most mundane of activities enthralling. I’m revisiting museums, becoming acquainted with their layouts like old friends.

I found the above paragraph written in my half-print, half-chicken scratch while getting ready for another reread. It was written the last time I lost a job, in the summer of 2010. I had a lot of hope. I saw a bright side.

But now, half of the time, I don’t even know what I am applying for during the day. I am more concerned with action than specifics.


I don’t want to be back there. I wish I could tell you what I went through, how I was broken, how I am still broken. A bad situation will continue to sneak up on you for days and weeks and months and years to come. I’m learning that for sure.

I feel betrayed by myself. We have ideas of ourselves and then we have the reality. My goal has always been to combine the two, or to discover that they are one in the same. I would want to be complex, yet valuable or perfect. To know that one outweighs the other, that one practically dominates the other, feels like a failure.

You will end up someplace better. I hate when people say that. Will I? For most people, that is not the case. The things we tell ourselves and our realities are two different things. I would prefer coldness. Shit is scary.

And DAMN IT! Maybe they were right. Maybe they were right all along. If I was in a place of emotional greatness, I don’t know if I would have been able to dig deep into my words. I don’t know if I would have kept writing just to write just to let it flow just to find some relief.

I expected to be able to create all of these pieces as a writer now that I have so much free time, but instead, I feel stunted and scared. It is easier to believe in your voice when the stakes are low. I always had something in the background to sustain me if a thought was rejected. Now it is just me, open and raw.


I used to tell people my quarter-life crisis started early. I moved out of my parents’ home at 23 and into an apartment that felt wrong immediately and never quite got better. The following summer was quiet and the winter lonely. I fell in love with a man who, from the beginning, made it explicit that he would never love me. A part of me thought I could change him. A month later, I realized I had never even changed myself. I was still the same woman thinking too much and saying too little.

My true quarter-life crisis is right now. It is in this essay and these words. It is a pivotal moment.

photography by dieter rehm

The outplacement firm assigned to me from my last job said to use this time to figure out what I want, but that suggests that I stayed in a bad place  mental and otherwise  because I was lost. I was not lost. I was trying to make something out of nothing. I have always done that. It is my life.

I want to write. But more importantly, I want to write without the fear of myself. That is holding me back. That is my greatest challenge. What happens next is a matter of confidence and purpose and overcoming the shackles of “no” and “can’t” and “impossible.”

I never cared about edits from my editor before, but each one feels like a personal attack, an affirmation of the sense of lostness one feels in a space like this.


The day after I left my job, I met with my friend Sarah who also left the company at the same time I did. We sat in Lula, a quiet cafe in the Logan Square neighborhood where everyone is thin and beautiful and seemingly without a day job to tie them down. Or maybe they were like me, at a loss of what to do next, but trying my best to look the part of success.

“This is like, a really important moment for us,” I said.

“Yeah, I think I feel good about this,” Sarah said.

Sometimes I feel like I am performing confidence rather than just exuding it. I have always had to fake it until I make it. I have always had to believe in my weirdness, even if it seemed futile, because I saw everything else and I hated it. But too much performance is exhausting. Sometimes I come home and I want to crawl up on my couch and forget this whole month, but instead I keep looking, keep looking, keep looking.

“Now’s the time to figure out what we want to do with our lives. We can actually pursue it instead of going another year outside of it.”

Sarah smiled and I let out a sigh of relief. Maybe if I said these things enough, they would finally come true.

Brittany Julious is the senior editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Chicago. She tumbls here and twitters here.

Photographs by Dieter Rehm.


In Which It Is A City Of Neighborhoods

Most Mornings


The lot is empty. It was empty the last time we were here, driving to or from the city. Sometimes a gate is erected, but a hole is soon cut in the metal, letting the trash that accumulates on the crumbling pavement filter into the vast, domineering space. The lot is empty anytime we are here. It has been like this since the late 60s and even though the clothes folks wear and the cars they drive and the music they listen to continue to change, the space remains as overdone as the day the riots tore through this city like many others. Our cars were nothing special, but they stood out on our few rides home down Lake Street. We took the long way back, the way that curves and bends and rumbles underneath the old Green Line train tracks that look out on the land of the Others.

The break in neighborhoods happens suddenly, but every few months another block gets cleaned. More of the trash is swept into metal garbage cans. Across a major avenue, that same trash sits in black garbage bags on the sidewalk. There is nowhere for it to go, but it must go somewhere. The space is not acceptable, but people still live and breathe and exist there, so they must claim the land as their own. They take care of their grass and their windows and when the broken bottles and grimy containers become too much, they will take care of that as well.

"Our home was our escape," my mother once said about the small house my grandparents finally purchased in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago. After moving here from Alabama in the early 60s, the family bounced from space to space, trying to make a home of a city in decline. Their house was "it," a formal recognition of a life accomplished, of a step into a newer, better, and unfamiliar class. Make no mistake, their wealth was not bountiful, but a home? With a lawn and shade and warmth? These things mean something.

The neighborhood has its charms: the wide yards, the long porches, the deep lots. It reminds me of the town next door, Oak Park, with its handsome residences. But the differences of race and class further polarize the sides of Austin Boulevard that separates the two. Most mornings as a young girl, I walked from my grandparents' house in Chicago to my elementary school in Oak Park.

Eventually I was old enough to stay at my home in Oak Park alone without adult supervision in the mornings, but those same blocks became a literal battleground of turf and pride. I came home one day from my school and my mother talked about the shooting on my grandparents' block. This was on the blocks I walked, the sidewalks I played on, the trees I hid under.

“Is she all right?” I asked.

“Mentally?” my mother responded.

In high school, my mother drove me to and from doctor's appointments in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago. She had other, quicker options but she chose to exit the expressway rather than wrap around the city for another 5 minutes. We drove through the West Loop, a former home. Back then, my mother walked to school and conversed with the prostitutes on the corners.

"You try-na take what's mine?" one would ask her.

She was twelve.

The streets are cleaner, brisker, but she still recognizes how the doublewide sidewalks are unlike the rest of the city. They stick out and create an empty space. This is where one realizes how small they are, how much more there is out there, how they'll never get to see it all.

Past Bridgeport, the South Side is indistinct. The residents may say something different, but if you live above 35th street, your chances of understanding everything after the divide diminishes the farther north you live. Chicago is a massive city of broad scope and scale, but the desire to explore or understand that scope is finite. This is a city of neighborhoods for a reason.

On a recent Friday night at a bar near my apartment in West Town, I was reminded of my newness, my cog in the machine of change. At one point, this bar was the place among a string of repurposed spaces, but now it is a bar like other bars, brimming with the kitsch of a pop cultural world I'll never inhabit: KISS posters, plastic play things, heavy knick knacks.

We arrived before the crowds and sat at the bar where the bartender gave a certain look of confusion. My friend, in jeans and a backpack. Myself, in heels, despite the heavy rain and broken sidewalks outside. The conversation began. I noticed he only ordered Pabst Blue Ribbon and I felt disappointed by his choices. The night before, we had sat in a booth at Estelle's and he ordered rich craft beers. He talked about their origins, their flavor profiles.

"Why only that?" I said, pointing to my drink that Friday.

I exist inside a vacuum. Peripherally, I touch numerous cultures but none exist as my own. Trying to take ownership of something that is not fully, truly mine feels wasteful of my time.

"I don't know. I just always get it. I always have," he said.

Sometimes my thoughts get the best of me, and that evening my mind and mouth ran freely around ideas of livelihood, of race, of ownership and possession. No one will at first admit to colonizing the land, but eventually, the crowds move in and the neighborhood exists with two identities: What Was and What Will.

The space one inhabits is unique. What I live and where I live is part choice, part circumstance. Because I am a young woman alone, I live where I feel safe. But because I am Black, I can exist in other places and still blend in. My blackness is my awareness. My skin affords me something beyond the new, the hip, the here. Even if my life were only Oak Park, I would be able to fake the life and land I’ve never possessed. There is an underlying assumption there. But also, I take on these stories and lives and neighborhoods as if they are my own. They give me something perhaps caché that makes my life feel authentic in a way that I didn’t realize I craved.

“I never really venture past Augusta or Kedzie or Armitage,” my friend said. “I’ve been here for three years. That’s my space.”

"I hate," I began, "how people move in to a neighborhood, a culture, a lifestyle and claim it as their own. It's that possession, that ownership, that disregard."

When I finished, he had little to say. He was looking at the back of the bar lined with bottles of vodka and gin. He was rubbing his hands against his legs. He was sighing.

"You've...given me a lot to think about," he said.

I smiled.

And then he said, “Well, what about you?”

Britt Julious is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Chicago. She tumbls here and twitters here. She last wrote in these pages about a hundred other things and the divine. You can find an archive of her work on This Recording here. You can find her website here.

Photographs by the author.

"Out Getting Ribs" - Zoo Kid (mp3)

"How Come You Never Go There" - Feist (mp3)

"Not Long Now" - James Blake (mp3)

"Keeping Up" - Arthur Russell (mp3)

"Houstatlantavegas" - Sonnymoon (mp3)