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Entries in chicago (17)


In Which Tomorrow Elapses In A Year



There is a stretch of the blue line train route that rushes out of the tunnel after Belmont Ave and balances precariously between the branches of Interstates 90 and 94. The platform, while completely immobile, seems to shift to and fro underfoot. Cars rush past deafeningly, and even if it is not windy, it is all you can do to stay upright.

Once a week I find myself standing on this island, huddled below the heat lamps. There is rarely anybody else on the platform. There are only cars, blowing in and out of the city, and half-empty trains lurching down the track. I have never gone further down the line than this stop and it feels like the very edge of the world.

It is the loneliest place in the city.


I rarely remember my dreams, but this morning I woke up in a cold sweat with the memory of being chased by a starving tiger. I also remember waking myself up from that dream right before the feline sunk its teeth into my face, afraid to leave my bed for a drink of water in case it was lying in wait. Then, in those moments between 4:15 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. I dreamt again, this time of cockroaches crawling underneath all of our sofa cushions because we had left a few crumbs out on the coffee table. It was so very detailed that I remember the distinct crunch every time we gingerly sat down to watch television.


I’d like to believe that, much like the infamous “Carolyn Keene”, Harold Bloom is really just a pseudonym for a group of individuals who did not have enough talent to make it big on their own but were able, somehow, to attach themselves to some greater ideal, one that sleep and nutrition-deprived college students would later cite extensively in their papers.


A couple of weeks ago I decided that I would not spend my money on eating out unless I had specifically made plans to eat out with someone else. So far, it has been a great decision for me.

Today, though, I have an apple and chicken noodle soup with me for lunch. The chicken noodle soup isn’t really soup anymore because much of the broth evaporated or else the noodles soaked it all up, and all I can think about is some sort of sandwich smothered in tomatoes and pesto and melted mozzarella.


Coworker: Do you know, I thought this the first time I met you, you look a lot like—

Me: Shosanna Dreyfus?

Coworker: Yes!

Me: You're the 18th person to tell me that.

Coworker: You've been counting?


Peruse the shelves of your local drugstore to find an opaque bottle of castor oil; fill the bottom of a clear glass vial with this slow, thick substance. Then, cover it with twice the amount of either olive or jojoba oil (olive is by far the more economical choice, and works just as well). Finally, add a few drops of lavender and rosemary essential oils. Shake well. At dusk pour a quarter-sized amount into your palm and rub your hands together gently to warm the mixture. Smooth it into your face beginning at the temples. Breathe deeply; the lavender and rosemary soothe away anxiety and smell like the south of France. Let the oil rest on your face for a few minutes and then douse a clean cloth in warm (not hot!) water. Gently apply the cloth to your face, not wiping the oil away as much as letting the warmth coax it out; do not hesitate to leave a bit in your skin.

Repeat the ritual every other night, alternating with a simple warm-water cleansing. After repeated use your skin will glow naturally. You will never need to buy cleanser, make-up remover, or moisturizer again.


Do you ever grow weary of your own perspective? — of the mistakes you fall into, the biases you lean towards simply because you are only ever looking out your own eyes?

For many years my mother would switch around all the furniture in our living room once a month. While it was still in her possession, she would even move her piano around the room on its wheels and we would help by picking up the bench with its wobbly legs and placing it reverently behind the instrument. Other things — cushions, picture frames, side tables — moved around the room as if in some sort of dance. Christmas afforded Mom the opportunity to change everything around so as to open up the appropriate space for our tree; at the arrival of summer, our kitchen table moved closer to the doors of the terrace so we could dine al fresco. All this she did primarily by herself although my father helped her when she needed to move a large cabinet.

We responded with an incredulous “Again!” each time it happened, although it was secretly delightful to discover our living room all over again. The furniture seemed new, cool to the touch; for a brief disorienting evening it seemed as if we were guests in our own home.

What belongs to you has very little to do with whether or not you spend money or time on it. I am discovering more and more that for most things in my life, I feel the same level of attachment that I do for historical monuments or other tourist attractions. They belong to me in the same way that they belong to the rest of the world, and they are not more mine than anybody else’s.

“They are just things,” my parents taught me, when we moved from place to place and left more and more in our wake. But I have begun to find it difficult to escape from this mindset even in relation to people and experiences. I do not know if this is the epitome of unwellness or if it is mature; I remember crying for a pretty calico cat that my father took back to the pound because she could not accompany us on our move, but the years that separate me from that child also spunkily create distance between me and loved ones in airports as if there were no thread of feeling between us.

I do not think I will stay here forever. I have high hopes of finding a place that I will make mine or settle into. Realistically, though, I have barely been living in my current apartment for four months and I am already considering other neighborhoods and various methods of paying for heat. I quell the growing restlessness by moving pictures around, by planning to create a new reading nook, by sitting in different corners of the room. Searching out apartments in neighborhoods closer to the lake, I feel guilty and excited at the same time.

Removing yourself from any place or thing feels like a betrayal at first, and then the wounds close and the guilt only flares up in rainy weather. After I threw a penny into the Fontana di Trevi, I knew I would eventually return to Rome. When I do it will not be returning home or to some ideal of a fixed state; it will be a revisiting of what once flourished and then crumbled. We are better off different than we were yesterday.


Sneaking into meetings late with trays of mini pastries and fruit, meetings to which I am not invited but come to bearing food, is most embarrassing. The projector casts a blue glow on my mess of curls and I feel suddenly as if I am seven feet tall and enormous, that my hips are in the way of everything. My hands begin to shake; the platters rattle, the mini pastries fall out of their semi-perfect arrangements. I have no need to be sorry because it is the person delivering the pastries who is at fault, but I feel all eyes on me, accusingly, anyways.

Before leaving Los Angeles I went to the FIDM end-of-the-year fashion show with a friend and agonized for a few minutes beforehand about what to wear.

“Remember,” my roommate said kindly, “this is not about you.”


I'm really glad my mother taught me nail polish remover will remove candle wax from various surfaces, because otherwise I’d be in trouble right about now.


At the escalator I am taken aback by a stranger's bold greeting. My fingers brush my own coiffure, wondering if the gentle twists at the nape of my neck or the abundance of bobby pins suggest mornings spent in stark Baptist sanctuaries, the smell of stale coffee, the air whispering with the sound of paper bulletins filled with song sheets, empty envelopes for the offering plate. I contemplate waving back; imagine jumping the last two feet that separate us to catch up. She might promise to call later in the evening, to discuss casserole options for an upcoming potluck. A thousand lives whizz by on the tracks.

I feel unbearably weary. Some of it is good weariness; the weight of love, of trust complicit with the most satisfying of friendships. Some of it is the weariness of crying myself to sleep because I could not write something I wanted to write well. The last cobwebs of thought before slumber remind me, You can write something, but sometimes, you are not supposed to.

You can live one way, but sometimes, you are not supposed to.


Before I woke up, I had moved into a studio apartment approximately the size of an airplane lavatory that smelled like a dingy roadside motel. The bed and the small expanse of counter were plastic; the floor was linoleum. I thought to myself, “Good, this will be easy to clean.” I brought with me a tiny all-black cat with a white face and boots. We spent three days there together before I realized I had not fed him nor provided a litter box. He looked at me disdainfully, made a move to bolt whenever I opened the door. We sat together in complete darkness as there were no lights save for his luminous green eyes. Nobody else came.


There is a yellow orchid on my back porch.

Every Wednesday I nestle three ice cubes into the soil and rotate the pot ever so slightly to the right so that the plant will grow evenly in the sunlight. When I get home from work and it is droopy and unhappy I turn the hot water on in my shower and set it just outside the curtain, on the edge of the sink, until my little bathroom is so full of steam that all I can see are the bright yellow flowers and the little hard green buds trying to open.

They bloom at night.

Why can I not trust that this other person does not hurt me on purpose? And even if they do, that they are full of good intentions towards me? And even if they’re not, that I cannot expect them to be? Forgiveness (and love) have a lot to do with trust in the other’s spirit, in their desire to do good by you even when it doesn’t always happen.

My father keeps telling me that you have not forgiven someone until you have done something good for them. And I am full of words and sweet intentions but there is little good left in my hands.


In an early morning dream, I asked a friend which of my items of clothing looked worst on me. She unabashedly criticized all the pants I have with lower waistlines. “They give you a muffin top.” She went on to tell me that the look was so offensive that Hugh Jackman had complained.

I was so embarrassed I had to wake myself up and try on all of my pants to make sure it wasn’t true.


Verizon has inexplicably locked me out of my voicemail, because apparently none of the dozens of number combinations I have attempted in the past few weeks work. I seem to remember using my birthday month and day as the password. Now I have ten unheard voice messages and absolutely no way to get ahold of them.

Perhaps the problem lies with me, in my inability to remember a combination of letters or numbers that will somehow crack the code to my life. However, I’d like to believe that there is not enough room for human error in this system. People keep telling me to write my passwords down somewhere, and I keep asking, “Doesn’t that defeat the purpose?”

It’s not a good enough secret if you have to write it down.


Over the next fortnight I attempt an experiment in which I withdraw twenty dollars at the beginning of each week, and spend only that amount on myself.

A foggy Saturday morning I spend praying on the brown line; nothing is quite so easy as having faith on an elevated train. My headphones run like beads through my fingers. I find myself wishing for the simplicity of a command. Not praying the rosary or anything coherent, but moaning to any divinity who will listen, I receive miraculous signs: Sedgwick is next, doors open on the right at Sedgwick. Standing passengers, please do not lean against the doors.

I notice a proclivity in my relationships towards people born in June. Summer birthdays end in fireworks at the beach. I break two glasses at work and throw the pieces over my shoulder into the trash can. When I notice superstition curling up around the radiators at night or in the tea leaves at the bottom of a cup, I rinse it out with the truths I am most uncertain about.

When you lose someone close to you, most people assume that you want to be left alone, when that is generally the last thing you want. I find that I am not sure how to ask for help, so I carry all my groceries alone.

I'm making note of the already-sweltering heat at 7:30 a.m., the way the perspiration gathers on my abdomen underneath my dress, the way the ice melts in my tea before I walk two blocks, how the cup sweats and drips onto dusty toes, the heaviness of the air which makes every whisper seem like a shout and every shout foggy, how my curls double into more curls with each half-mile, how Tom Skilling promises this will be the hottest day Chicago has seen in six years.

I am making careful note of these things so that I will remember them in February.


We swam to the surface. Immediately in front of us was a rocky shoreline decorated with people in evening wear. The sun was going down in the background. I wanted to dive down immediately to retrieve the bicycles (they had been pulled into the soft, mucky sand at the bottom) but you insisted that we reach the shore. A few men at a table, garbed in tuxedos, played cards and looked on as you dragged yourself out of the water. There was a strange moment of recognition that is particularly fuzzy. I think you started running away from them, and I dove under water so that it would seem as if I had never been there. They saw me, however, and began shooting a machine gun after me. I got hit twice in both legs, but the bullet holes were only the size of freckles. I kept swimming. My bicycle was floating past, and I grabbed it. I wondered how I would manage to get it out of the water without help. When I surfaced, I was next to the beach, but it resembled the ledge of a pool. I rested my cheek against it, exhausted, but you were there, and helped me pull the bicycle out of the water. Blood was running down my legs. The holes were near my ankles, perfectly aligned like bug bites. I woke up on my back with all the covers off. I spoke to you for a moment before I realized I was alone.

Today I saw a woman sacrifice her sunglasses for a place on the train. Closing doors knocked them out of her hand as she squeezed into the last available spot, and they landed with a clatter on the platform. We stared. “Oh shit,” she said. “Oh shit!” She made a move as if to jump out of the train. I saw her debate, behind the silver half-circles of her eye make-up, sweaty hands pushing back blonde strands of hair.

There was only a moment during which she might have stepped off the train to retrieve them, but as it was, the doors closed right as she reached the end of her debate. “Oh, well,” she laughed breathlessly. I imagined her walking in the Loop without sunglasses, ducking behind buildings, a slim wrist thrown up for shade.

And what of the glasses? Are they like the mittens abandoned in January that mysteriously melt with the snow? Will somebody kick them into the tracks, steal them, throw them away?


I could love anybody in an airport for their foreign tongue, for their smart trench coat.


Down the street from my office a man leaves his blinds open. His desk is consistently messy. I tally up the damage when I walk past, before I cross the railroad tracks: one untouched glass of water with speckles of dust floating in it, three pens with chewed lids. What most intrigues me is the giant box of raisins that sometimes rests on the edge of his desk but now, oddly, on the windowsill. Not many people eat raisins because they love them. Some, like myself, put them in their morning bowl of oatmeal because there is something about raisins and milk. Some hate them but eat them because intestinal traffic is slow. I wonder which kind he is. Why has he moved the box from his desk to the windowsill? Did he eat too many and make himself sick? Did their uselessness cause him to exile them in a fit of righteous constipation?


To describe the process of barring someone from our lives, we call it “cutting out” or “cutting off”. The violence of this, as well as the idea that we can disregard a person — exclude them, remove them like we might remove a limb — does not ring true. You could not cut off your finger and not miss it. Subtly, the phantom remains. Rather it is like diving into the deep waters of yourself, and pulling someone out. There is beauty and darkness and truth at the bottom of this river; there is also fear, and there might be a monster or two. You say, come back to this appealing light. Here, the water is not so heavy. Here you can tread, disregard the profundity pulling at your feet. Remain at the surface where you are safe, where I can curl away from you to the places you no longer wish to visit.


How is that I can walk ten miles most Saturdays at a fast pace, and come home feeling on top of the world, but as soon as I run half a mile I feel like dying?

Kara VanderBijl is the senior editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Chicago. You can find her website here. She twitters here. She last wrote in these pages about the spirit animal. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.

Photographs by the author.

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"Nantes" - Beirut (mp3)

"My Night with the Prostitute From Marseilles" - Beirut (mp3)

"East Harlem" - Beirut (mp3)


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)


In Which They Will See A Hundred Other Things

That Girl Is Poison


I write this as a woman who does not consider herself sexy, but understands the power of sexy, and the seduction sexiness gives towards women who can manipulate the world around them to fit their goals. Sexy is real and true, but the performativeness of sexy - of tight clothes and short hems and high heels - means that true sexiness is a choice. Sexiness does not just happen. It is observed and then developed. It is executed and then maintained. It morphs through time and situation.

Being young means understanding sexiness as a force of the tangible. I remember short skirts as sexy and body glitter as sexy and extensions in the hair as sexy. This was power in the sense that I could manipulate myself, my body, in ways that I began to crave more and more as an adult. There was a freedom in the control and a freedom in reactions. I expected my mother to not like my clothing. I expected her to want me to dress just as she saw fit.

"You have to remember," my mother, beautiful and seemingly confident, said, "that regardless of what you see in yourself, they will see a hundred other things - true and not true - born before you." The positives are irrelevant. The negative forms reality and stem decisions. They see what they want to see. They remember what they want to remember. They observe, and take away, and move forward from there.

The reality of getting older was not that I craved sexiness less, but that I recognized my sexualized being was beginning to be enough. Not that I am particularly beautiful or attractive, but that just existing warranted attention - usually lascivious, definitely unwarranted - from the men around me.

Chicago has no spring, and summer comes swiftly and with great force. The weather makes a clean break. I welcome the heat, the sweat that forms against my limbs, that sticks to the bus seats or metal bars. In the summer, my body is both everywhere and nowhere. When it is everywhere, I have the ability to feel what was always there but trapped between the lining and stitches of my clothing. The breeze takes on a sensual quality. Nothing feels as wonderful as thick air washes against one’s skin. It is so sweet against your face. It is so real against your thighs.

My legs are long. I think of them as a separate entity, a different set of limbs that just happen to be attached to the rest of my body. They have a mind of their own, a certain agency that demands long walks and fresh air. In the summer, my shorts are not that short, not really, but they exist in a world of codes and rules. Sometimes I think about the ways in which this became true - the time in which I finally understood.

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 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 as I sat on a bench, in the shade, eating a plate full of macaroni and cheese.

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

My mother frequently tells me stories about my attitude as a young girl.

"You were always so angry, so eager to let the adults know what was up," she often says. I had outbursts, she said, but I can't remember any of them, only snapshots of the moments proceeding and following the confrontations resonate in my memory.

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.

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

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.

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."

Later that evening, I called my mother and told her what happened. She asked me why I was trying to be sexy, why I was trying to be this person. But this was fashion of circumstance. I gained no power from those shorts except for my own comfort.

"It doesn't matter," she said. These things don't matter. Ideas are born before and will exist long after one ceases noticing them.

A placed upon sexiness is rarely good. If I pursue and cultivate sexy, it is not the same as the idea of sexy, the culmination of images, caricatures, and supposed morality that is not a part of me. It is often dirty or cruel, but most often, it is an accusation, an assumption that is fueled by anger and stereotypes. They are saying, who are you to dress like this? They are saying, why should I respect you like this? What power lies in the body?

I began to dance as a young girl and the more I danced, the more in control I felt. These are my legs that bend and curve, my arms that flex. Freedom stemmed from the control I gained and to dance was to be free. I didn’t recognize it then, but I pushed through the grueling rehearsals with the knowledge that once I learned a routine, it would become something I could call to on a moment’s notice. At any moment after, I could become this powerful being in control of my movements and myself, unhurried or torn apart. My movements were choreographed and not choreographed. When I had a moment to move about the floor on my own terms, that is when I felt most alive. It was a moment without judgment, just sadness and anxiety and excitement manifest through a pirouette, a switch leap, a flick of the wrist.

At 23, I dance less and the desire to cover my body, to protect and hide, becomes more urgent. Summer progresses and my body becomes less my own and more a product of the people who view it. A few weeks ago, it was unbearably hot and I put on a pair of shorts that my mother told me were "not okay." I do not know if she was right emphatically or if I have ingrained in myself the ways in which she sees the world. I do not know if how I feel, how we feel, is “alright” or “good,” but I do know that my shorts were "not okay." They would draw attention. They would put me on a stage. They would project a state of sexy that was not my own, that was not a choice in power but a decision thrust upon me. They would put me outside of the body that I claimed too well in the winter.

Sometimes a person looks right at me and I think, to whom is he or she talking to? At 23, I dance less and the ownership of myself seems more like a glimpse at the past. Why would I cherish what is not my own? Why would I let free the thighs and arms and breasts of another woman, this other woman these strangers praise or defile?

I remember sexy. This is not sexy. It is a mutated, weird, different sexy. A pseudo-sexy. A play sexy. A not-really-sexy made by others. This is something else entirely.

Brittany 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 the quiet storm. You can find an archive of her work on This Recording here.

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"Butterfly Knife" - EMA (mp3)

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