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Entries in lucy morris (19)

Monday
Dec242012

In Which We Ransack Our Mind For What Is Not There

You Live Alone

by LUCY MORRIS

For many months, here in New York, we lived each day like it was the last week of summer. I trust you know the kind: the late August nights when you stay up until dawn, as though – all knowledge to the contrary – it is the last time you will ever do so, cradling a glass in your hand as though you will never hold a drink like it again, and confiding to your friends like it’s the last chance to get it all out before winter arrives. Only winter did not come. Yes, the days got shorter. I stood some lone, dark evenings in the flashing lights of First Avenue Indian restaurants, pretending they were the full-spectrum lamps used to treat seasonal depression, but it was by no means wool coat weather.

In late November, against all better judgment, I found myself steering someone home through Houston Street’s aisles of Christmas trees. But the branches were snowless, and I took this as a sign that I could act without consequence: even nature doesn’t know what’s happening tonight. Suspended as we were in perpetual autumn, no ice in sight, it all seemed slightly intangible, like some Hollywood director's vision of winter – delirious on beer and promise, I told myself we were touring a movie set, not my own neighborhood.

Our sense of summer had never quite ended. I wondered if maybe it never would.

+

I was in no rush for summer to end, because it had been a constructive one for me. The apartment I had moved into with my older brother was finally complete after months of renovations. The walls were a pristine white, for at least a few weeks before bikes and boxes and daily life scuffed them up. The floors were so shiny I felt actually, deceptively, rich in a way I had not thought possible – considering my account balance.

Fixtures and furniture started to arrive. A crew from P.C. Richard came to cart the thirty-year-old stove away and, a few hours later, another team arrived with the new one. I greeted a locksmith late one night when our front door surrendered to age and humidity and simply refused to open. If I had been in another kind of mental space, the kind I’d been in for much of the preceding year, this might have seemed like a metaphor. But, I was finding, something happens when you are genuinely content: you spend less time thinking in figurative language. The literal suffices.

By the end of May, I had an apartment where I was happy to wake up, a room where I was thankful to fall asleep. I wondered how just having my own bed might have altered the last few years. The majority of that time had been spent living in the homes of boyfriends. I phrase it that way because I mean that I moved into their lives with heaps of boxes and duffels. The homes were not mine to make, but ones to try to make my own. This was not a task I ever accomplished, perhaps because I was never quite confident that the payoff would be worth the inconvenience of packing it all up again. That I was right to be hesitant about digging in – to hang onto my dingy college-era sheets, to keep my books on separate shelves, to hold onto the boxes I came with – does not bring me the same satisfaction that intuition proven correct usually does. When I left – and I always did – I had no furniture to take with me.

The last delivery that arrived was a new bed. It was the first one that I could say belonged strictly to me. The first night I slept in it, I thought it was the most restful sleep I’d ever had.

+

 

At the same time as I settled into my new apartment, I returned to my office translation job after months of telecommuting from other cities. It took just a few weeks of long days ticked away in a windowless room while summer erupted outside to convince me I had to quit. Something had changed: it seemed that this was no longer what I wanted. It was still months before Zuccotti, when the sentiment appeared in op-eds and Times Square protests and tents in the park, but it had begun to dawn on me that there might be some alternative to spending the majority of my waking hours helping other people get rich.

Living especially frugally seemed like a reasonable tradeoff for being in control of my own time. I was acutely aware that this is a privilege of my age, a privilege of someone without real responsibility but with the reckless conviction that one day I will be able to make up for what I am deficient in now: for a lack of sleep and unbalanced diet and utter absence of savings.

But as it turned out, I picked up one freelance client, and then another, and still one more, until I could afford greens and happy hour drinks again. The sense of poise and control I felt perched at my living room desk with Cyrillic texts on my screen, even as early summer sweat dripped down the crevices of my back, was one I had never before experienced. No relationship I’d ever been in had brought me the same sense of command.

You see, I had for some time been using my youth and the presumed shortsightedness that accompanied it as an excuse for dubious relationship decisions: I’m twenty-two was the fundamental justification for everything I did in 2010 and then, even when I was no longer in fact twenty-two, for much of 2011. Although little of it was productive, the pursuit of romance above all else was, to my constant surprise, accepted by almost everyone around me. The common narrative is that doing anything for love is okay, provided that it works out, even if it doesn’t last forever.

I was realizing, in my own slow way, that if you are going to use age as a pretext at all, it might as well be for more interesting risks than dramatic, costly gestures and the kind of absurd late night declarations you make just to see if you can. To my surprise, waking up to a job I love is on the whole much more satisfying than waking up next to someone I loved once was. When you are young, it can be alarmingly easy and not even especially scarring to forget someone with whom you once spent every night. But I can say now with some minor authority that it is significantly more wrenching to forget, even just for a little while, what it is you want to do, and who it is you want to be.

+

Working from home changed everything, including my schedule. I awoke not to a succession of alarms that ensured I make the train, but to e-mails from courteous clients in Moscow whose faces I had never seen, whom I came to know only through pleasantries and requests and invoices. I adjusted to daily deadlines not of five p.m. but of one a.m., the hour at which Russia starts waking up. I began to live eight hours ahead of myself. But rather than feeling rushed, as I had in my old, harried office life, time started to seem open and infinite. There was my entire New York day, and then there was my Russian day, too, if I wanted it. And I often did, because in the daytime it was too hot to do much of anything besides work.

Our apartment had one ancient air conditioning unit left behind by former tenants, but its very hum made me anxious, a constant reminder of an escalating ConEd bill, so I refused to turn it on. When it got too hot to think, I shut my eyes for a while. When it got too hot to sleep, I slipped on my shoes, stuck three $1 bills in the waistband of the boxers I slept in, and went to Ray’s on Avenue A for frozen yogurt. “I’m going to have to order more chocolate just for you,”  ancient Ray himself told me late one night, but his lopsided grin told me that he didn’t mind. During the day here, when the heat is pressing in from all sides, the actions of every fellow inhabitant feel like a personal affront. But at nighttime, when a slight breeze starts to blow in from the water around us, a kind of broad generosity returns: you remember that nobody really minds much of anything when it is night and it is summer and it is New York.

In those moments, weaving gingerly, cone in hand, between towers of trash bags and tipsy, tottering women, I could see how different things can be when you live alone. In the presence of someone else, a two am ice cream run might have seemed at best indulgent; at worst, embarrassing. But now I could come and go at any hour I pleased. I wasn’t obligated to text anyone my whereabouts. I no longer experienced that tug to leave the party early, to go home to whomever was waiting. No boyfriend had ever explicitly asked this of me — it was no fault of theirs — but like many people, and perhaps women in particular, I had for a long time been unable to distinguish between habit or expectation and actual desire. As is also common, I had not felt the weight of this unvoiced obligation until it was lifted.

+

Lying on my bed reading with the windows open to the roar of St. Mark's Place, on winding late night walks home alone through Greenwich Village, on jogs along the East River and standing still in the rush of a cold shower afterward, my mind kept returning to a piece of a poem in Eileen Myles’ Inferno. I turned it over in my head and lobbed it in emails to friends scattered around the world, recited it aloud to an audience of just myself:

I don't think

I can afford the time to not sit right down &

write a poem

I don’t write poetry, but I was beginning to spend the hours I no longer wasted commuting writing instead. Something unexpected was happening: in the relative absence of men, who had staked out space in my brain for so long, there was new mental real estate opening up. It was as though when I had moved my belongings out, I had cleared way for the psychic space to think seriously about writing the poem – in my case, a metaphorical poem – to which Myles referred.

I hauled my laptop to Think Coffee on Fourth Avenue, where the conversation of the NYU summer school students around me proved sufficiently uninteresting as not to distract me. I couldn’t begrudge them their revelatory undergrad discoveries of Foucault and Marx: I, too, was undergoing internal transformations, and like them I wanted to espouse it to everyone I encountered. I wanted to tell the friends holed up at home with their boyfriends, the ones who still left the party early, to resist the impulse, to stay out just a little longer, to see what might be available if they did – a bevy of rooftops, new people, glimpses into other apartments and psyches and lives that, too, could be theirs, if only they allowed for it.

Aware that this would make me the most insufferable kind of friend, I said nothing, just as they had said nothing to me when I had been doing the same as them. I recalled that there was a hedonism to living with someone you loved: whiling away Saturdays in bed, goading each other into take-out, succumbing to the lazy pleasure of not even having to leave the house to see your favorite person. Meandering my own neighborhood paths on weekend afternoons, I spotted these couples: ice coffees in hand, limbs intertwined on the benches of Tompkins Square Park, adrift on planets of two. I readily recognized their happiness. But with a clarity that startled me, I recognized, too, that this was no longer – or at least for now – the kind of happiness I wanted.

+

Without a live-in companion, and after a day of working in the solitude of my apartment, I found that I was newly outgoing. I had my whole life identified as shy, perhaps even socially anxious in a clinical sense, but now I wondered if my sociability had simply been a gene late to come to fruition, much in the way my hair abruptly turned curly at age twelve.

When I met my daily deadlines, I closed my computer and went out. I walked to my budget gym, where East Village girls in harem pants and Converse sweated on treadmills. I came home and cooked collards in a partial state of undress, sweaty but aware that a chill was now in the air, that eating warm meals was again an option. I went out again after dinner for drinks, to readings, on walks around Alphabet City. “Headlines” and “I’m On One” were blaring on car stereos. I thought I might break into a sprint at any moment. It did not seem inconceivable that nobody would notice, and that in itself was comforting, a confirmation of the liberties of being alone.

What I felt for my friends, which had always been somewhat romantic in its profundity and complexity, was suddenly unconfined by the pressures of loving someone else.  I went for evening beers with new friends and afternoon coffee with ones I hadn’t seen in years. With the serious friends, the ones I thought of essentially as long-term partners, the mutual infatuation was limitless: when we went home for the night, we texted; from our desks the next day, we e-mailed. It was unambiguously pants weather now, and I kept expecting the real cold to come and hibernation season to set in. But it never quite happened. We kept venturing out.

Many evenings I would go to Brooklyn and hours later careen myself home on the L, barely conscious of my own itinerary. On these subway nights alone, my awareness of where I was extended just far enough to know that I was glad to be there alone. I had been feeling some appreciation for this late night solitude for a while, six or seven months now at least, the knowledge that I had for a long time been by far my favorite person to go home with and wake up to and cook breakfast for.

I recalled a time when I lived with a boyfriend, and the subway rides home to the life and house we shared felt excruciatingly long, an MTA-contrived plot to delay the pleasure of his company, our shared dinner, a movie on the couch. Now the ride itself was its own pleasure. Each time I got on the train, I wondered how far it could take me.

+

Eventually, in barely perceptible ways, independent of the weather and the spirit in the air – that summer commitment to no consequences, that sense of urban invincibility – a real seasonal change began to manifest. The tomatoes at the farmers market gave way to squash, to Brussels sprouts; the greens I’d hauled home in tote bags all summer began to dwindle, the potatoes appeared. One by one, I took fans out of windows. The temperatures were in the fifties on Thanksgiving Day, but there were sweet potatoes all the same. The seasons had changed in spite of themselves; no matter how late we stayed out sharing our secrets, there was nothing we could do to halt the cycle entirely.

The morning I awoke with the guy I’d led home through the Lower East Side, I was hit with a sense of something new: this was what it meant to bring someone home. It was not that I was new to the practice, exactly, it was just that I had never before had the sense of having a home, Tolstoy prints on the wall, all my shoes, all my books, all my thoughts in one place.

There were already e-mails on my phone from the Russians. I walked the guy to the train and then I continued on alone, no destination in mind. With a gratitude that originated deep in my chest and swelled upwards, out into a wide smile, I felt the limitless promise that I had begun to sense when I woke up every day in that bed of my own: the promise of Lower Manhattan streets stretched out around me and a pocket full of songs to guide the way, of croissants and morning conversation with a friend at a café on Avenue A, of hours of translating – that special retreat into the world of words that both pleased me immensely and paid the rent on the place that I liked so much. The sun was pulling up into the sky over the East River, which I had come to think of, selfishly but in a mental effort to distinguish it from the Hudson, as my river. I had my river. I had a new book to read.

Lucy Morris is the contributing editor to This Recording. She is a writer and translator living in Iowa City. She tumbls here. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.

Images by Kurt Knobelsdorf.

"Juice of My Heart" - White Blush (mp3)

"Jolene" - White Blush (mp3)


Wednesday
Nov282012

In Which All That's Left Is The Text

Shining Off You

by LUCY MORRIS

Dear C,

I write you this time from the upper deck of a red and blue bus zipping through the Midwest. I write you, computer balanced on my knees, from cramped window seat quarters. I write you with a sore throat, runny nose, carpal tunnel, humbly, in the tradition that I always have: to see if in explaining things to you, I may incidentally end up explaining things to myself.

A funny thing has been happening to me out there in Iowa, where I boarded this bus, and I don’t know how to explain it to you except to say that it’s started to seem like nothing matters besides the thing I’m there to do. I have a funny sensation of everything else slipping away, the margins of what my life used to contain growing ever smaller, sliding off the page, until all that’s left is the text. I stay busy, of course: I jog up Summit Street past what qualifies as mansions there, feet padding out some order to the day, and I drink tea downtown with my computer for companionship, maybe knock on Ellen’s door and sit with her a while. But I now spend so much time inside my own head that when it comes time to go out at night, I find myself loathe to leave it.

image by Angelika Sher

I am so detached from a reality beyond the page that I have even stopped appearing in my own dreams, am a mere spectator of scenes filled with strangers.  I close my eyes each night, ready to watch the movie that appears on my subconscious’ screen. There are too many characters and they speak too fast, like an Altman film, but I can’t look away.

If this sounds nihilistic and disturbing, I don’t mean for it to: it is, in its own way, superbly liberating to no longer feel beholden to the rules of real life, to no longer imagine that you exist on a plane inhabited by anyone else you know, and I wonder if this is what you feel, so many thousands of miles away in Nepal, in a physical landscape so unlike my own. I would be lying if I didn’t say this entire experience is lonely. I would also be lying if I didn’t say it is utterly transformative.

love,

L

image by angelika sher

Dear C,

Back in school means back home for the holidays, which makes me think of those years we used to talk with phones pressed to cheeks in twin beds in childhood bedrooms halfway across the country. I miss phone-line sympathy for our gorging on potatoes, on pie, on the indulgences of being the youngest. I miss you like I’ve never missed anyone else, wildly, and yet it’s been so long that it’s now just a part of me, this missing manifested: it’s in my hands when I type, in the time zone computations I do in my head, in the hair I cut myself like you taught me to, wetting the comb, pulling the hair taut, closing the scissors carefully. I start stories about you with, “My best friend, in Beijing…”

I told some of those stories to Ryan when he visited a couple weeks ago. We went to George’s and he asked what kind of wine they had. “Red and white,” said the waitress, “But I wouldn’t recommend either.” I laughed for about ten minutes and realized it’d been a long time since I’d laughed at all, since those muscles in my face and shoulders had stretched in that particular direction. Later we went home and slept together. I find sex with him, as with all old boyfriends, to be comforting in the way I find the opening bars of an old song to be comforting, or the 978 start of an ISBN. You know roughly how it’s going to go from there. You also have some basic understanding of how it’s all going to end.

I used to think sex was only interesting to me with the potential of possibility, which meant it needed to seem not inconceivable that I could date the person I was sleeping with. But at some point it also started to mean that sex was not interesting to me with people I was dating — because the very fact of us already being together also represented in some way the absence of possibility.

This worries and intrigues me. It’s the type of thing you’d be better at explaining: you have for a long time been better at interpreting me than I am myself. When I miss looking you in the eyes part of what I miss is seeing by proxy how you see me. But it’s also missing how you see the world at large, which is the gift of a friend as close as you: a second shot at how to see, which is in itself a second shot at how to be.

love,

L

image by angelika sher

 Dear C,

Do you remember that first winter after college when we went to that open bar party, and for banh mi afterward, and then for expensive ice cream? I hadn’t been that intoxicated in so long, both on wine and the whims of a city, taking the train downtown to satisfy a particular craving and, hands still sticky from the sandwiches, running across the street to catch the ice cream truck. I lived with a boyfriend then, which is why I hadn’t been going out so much and got drunk so easily; when I got home he read me poems while I cold-sweated and waited to puke. I never did puke and I broke up with him just a few months later.

I didn’t know then that breakups meant committing yourself to a certain kind of history, that they signified at the very least the elimination of one particular trajectory. I’m keeping my options open was a thing I used to say to you a lot that spring, and you rolled your eyes. I thought then that it was because you disapproved, but I can see now that it was because you already understood the fundamental impossibility of actually doing that, that you comprehended the inevitability of shutting some doors.

I imagine myself now, still with that boyfriend, but he is the abstraction in the equation, only the life I would have had with him remains clear to me. Having not chosen that life or any of the three or four that presented themselves to me afterward, I sit on my bed some cold Iowan Saturdays and allow myself to feel a minor grief for those paths unchosen, the alternate lives left unlived. I feel that for a while and then I get up, roast some squash, put on my boots, go over to Ellen’s to chat and cheer up.

These are things I believe I have taught myself to do in your absence, as if each minor bit of progress is a tangible object to show you when I see you next. I regret that my letters read so selfishly, that our distance is now so great that to recall anecdotes from our shared past seems anachronistic. All I can offer is the simple fact that you are present in each of these lines, that you have been the intended audience for every word, for every action, for all of it.

I’m on my way back to Iowa now, the bus I’m on weaving its way through actual cornfields. I never imagined myself here, would never have allowed the thought to cross my mind.  I wonder if your adaptability to place, which I so lack, comes from your superior imagination, from the things you let yourself conceive of that I avoid at all costs. I wonder, too, if this can be learned — like the roux you taught me to make or the darkroom you once showed me how to use — and if, with enough practice, I might one day be able to do the same: to close my eyes and picture the things I want, and to open my eyes and, in not so very long, find them there.

love,

L

Lucy Morris is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Iowa City. She tumbls here. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here. She last wrote in these pages about moving to Iowa.

Images by Angelika Sher.


Monday
Sep242012

In Which We Remove Ourselves To Iowa

The Right Word

by LUCY MORRIS

Ellen says we’re taking an extended vacation from New York.

We’re on vacation with our books and our beds and our furniture. We’re on vacation with renewable yearlong leases and nails in the walls and energy bills and stocked pantries. We’re on vacation with Hawkeyes tank tops and New Pi Co-Op sweatshirts and the coveted t-shirts they sell at Wal-Mart that say, “What Happens In Iowa City Stays In Iowa City.” Any time in a bookstore will tell you this isn’t true at all, but it’s a sentiment I can’t help but admire even if, for the first time in a while, I’m not doing anything I feel compelled to hide.

Most days, it is just me and my unrelenting body, which wakes me up earlier than it ever did before, and refuses to be overridden by any of the old sedatives: whiskey, Xanax, late night talks. I get out of bed and make a cup of tea and sit down at my desk. What I’m working on is very boring, even to me, but the beauty of what happens here, the equation that delights me daily in its simple formulation, is this: there is nothing more interesting happening at this hour anywhere in Iowa City, so I might as well stay where I am, in my oversized t-shirt and last night’s unravelling bun, typing until I can’t.

The desk where I work in these hours is situated between two walls of windows. When I sit here, cross-ventilated tunes float in from the sorority houses nearby: “Tonight’s! The night! Phi Beta Pi!” drifts in from Washington Street, while the girls on College Street sing, “Build Me Up Buttercup” in a complicated canon. I don’t mind it, not in the way I sometimes used to mind the slow squeal of the M8 bus, the clatter of sidewalk café cutlery.

I idle my time in new and different ways here. I used to spend half of every Saturday roaming Union Square, comparing bunches of greens at six or seven farm stands, searching for the most colorful carrots or the right kind of apple. I would spend evenings drinking gin at bars, or consuming wine and pasta at someone’s house, and I’d wake up a sort of paralyzed the next day that was a little bit hung-over, a little bit something bigger, a kind of paralysis born of too much pleasure: how could I possibly top the day that had preceded the one at hand?

It’s a quieter hedonism here, time spent chatting New York when I should be revising, reading the books I like instead of the ones I’m supposed to, cooking elaborate meals precisely to my own taste, doing translation work rather than tending to homework. As for writing, that open secret of a thing I’m here to do, despite all the days it feels utterly unbearable, it is its own kind of hedonism for me. But, I think, that was never not true.

There are no bodegas here, so I make my own breakfast sandwiches. I also kill my own bugs, page absentmindedly through my own phone book, and scream FUCK at myself when I reach for the pot without mitts. I portion leftovers into Tupperware for lunch, pack Luna Bars to eat on class breaks, lug my groceries up the hill. I sweep meticulously while I talk to my mother on the phone; dust absentmindedly while I check in with my dad. They call often because this is my first time living all alone. There’s the one toothbrush in the bathroom, the one half-gallon of milk in the fridge, the one person responsible for turning the deadlock, shutting off the lights, setting the alarm.

I leave my shoes in the bathroom, let the trash linger a day longer than it should. I congratulate myself on not throwing clothes all over the floor, as if that serves as some real accomplishment. I sleep with the fan on, its sound of artificial bustle lulling me from wakefulness. Ellen says the sound of the bugs outside at night make her think she’s at some country oasis. They make me think I’m about to get murdered. “Iowa City is very safe,” my landlord assures me.

I’m in Iowa but what I didn’t say is that when I first got here I thought I might be in love with someone far away.

It was a surprise to me as much as to anybody. I hadn’t said that phrase in a few years, not since I began to sense the futility of those kinds of declarations in the face of real, manifested love: the nights you stay up touching a person’s forehead while they panic and veer, peering at the back of their heads through hospital curtains as they watch their parent fade away, riding through the Badlands with them in a car full of arguments to which there are no solutions except for that there you are and deep down there’s no one with whom you’d rather be fighting. The things you might think to say in moments of excitement are nothing next to what can’t be said in moments of grief, of anger, of fear. Those three famous syllables hold very little. They are, in their compactness, too small to contain the half of it.

And yet I allowed myself to consider that maybe I could be in love with someone. This seemed unlikely, but so, of course, was the very fact of being here. Anything is possible somewhere new. For a while, at least, all bets were off. Why not Iowa? Why not love?

As with any questions you hope to remain rhetorical, the answers eventually made themselves known.

I think of time differently now that it is in such abundance. It used to be units; now it’s a landscape. There are hills, peaks, valleys. It’s lavish and freeing and completely cruel.

I whittle away afternoon hours downtown at Prairie Lights, where I sit in the upstairs café translating for extra money. Translation is just as much a feat of words as everything else I do, but it allows me to access a different part of my mind, the part where the stakes are low and it’s just for money. I miss things being just for and about the money: everyone acts like there’s an impurity to that, but lately it seems simpler. I want more than ever what is quantifiable. I am interested in what exists on a scale outside of the one inside my head.

For just this reason, everyone I know here runs. We jog around Hickory Hill Park in tees advertising our undergrad institutions, trying to give ourselves an activity by which to judge the day that is not just writing, miles and minutes instead of a word count or one of the many other less objective ways of adding up what you have done: the good sentences, the structural failures, the rotten, unsalvageable mediocrity of the okays and in-betweens.

At night I walk over to Ellen’s house, through the alley and around the white clapboard bend of her house to sit with her on the front porch. All I have with me are my keys, phone, and a mug. I used to believe that the only possible manifestation of physical freedom was a 24-hour public transit system, but it turns out my feet are more reliable than the L train. We watch the rain from Ellen’s porch swing, talk about dying trees, talk about books we’ve read, talk about friends who are far away. You have to talk about them so you don’t lose them, but you have to talk about them, too, so that you don’t get submerged alone in your memories of them.

Those friends write me e-mails from New York saying, “You’re not missing anything.” What I miss is the people writing these emails, but they can’t know their own absences; we are all doomed to inhabit our bodies until we don’t, and until then we can say, “I miss you too,” but we can’t know what it is like, precisely, to be missed. One friend can’t possibly know the way I miss watching her chop onions while we’re cooking dinner, sliding the knife inward with the assurance of an expert; another can’t know how much I wish to hear her immensely endearing, “It’s me!” when she rings my buzzer. I thought it’d be the big things, the buildings and noise and neverending list of things to do, but instead I miss most the quiet details, for instance catching the occasional blue-skied swath of Broadway on a clear, sunny day, the kind that could take you by surprise in spite of yourself. 

This isn’t to say Iowa is without its charms. You can, for example, go to a bar and order a cheese sandwich with everything, which really just means a cheeseburger, hold the burger.

And there are moments of what Ellen calls Iowa euphoria. These occur when you find something as good as or better than you could find in New York. I find Iowa euphoria in the triple-dipped caramel apples at the farmer’s market, at night when there’s a bite in the air and I careen home from the bar with limitless energy, scrambling up the hill on Governor Street. At those times, stumbling up deserted Iowa Avenue, the joy is amplified, seems to bounce in waves off the frat houses and come right back at you in greater force. In those moments of euphoria I think, This is it, this is really what it’s all about. I know enough not to ruin things by asking myself what “it” actually is.

A question I do allow myself to ask is how long this pleasant sense of impermanence can be maintained, how long the thrills of the Midwestern safari will endure before they come to seem normal: the “POP HERE” recycling bin label you have to read twice, the jarring “WHITEY’S ICE CREAM” sign, the throngs of undergrads unanimously clad in yellow Iowa gear as if under contract. I think often of what might happen when this is over — the age I will be, where I will go, who will be waiting — but I do not think about what will happen in the years between, the unavoidable changes that will take place, the ones within me and without, the ones in my head and on the page. Here, in Iowa, the central pleasure lies in how easy it is to take one day at a time, to not think too hard about what comes next. The days, even as they grow shorter, are long; they pass quickly.

Lucy Morris is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Iowa City. She tumbls here. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here. She last wrote in these pages about turning the dials.

Photographs by Jim Dow.

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