Iowa Writes

BARRET BAUMGART
I Miss the Metropolis


I miss the metropolis. Driving in Southern California, I used to enjoy screaming as loud as possible. It was a nice way to expend some energy. The body reaches toward a pinnacle without really doing anything. I always smiled afterwards — it felt good. The only other places I've found that I can scream like that are mountains and deserts, wide stretches where you're certain no one is listening. When I screamed on the highway, surrounded by thousands of people, I don't think it was from rage but joy, the thrill of being alone in a wilderness. I can't do this in Iowa City. The town is too small. Through the rolled up windows, the scream reaches the mail carrier, the boy raking the leaves, the lady pushing the stroller. I suppose it wouldn't be so bad if I were able to drive away quickly, but in my neighborhood the roads are narrow, the speed limit slow, and when the startled woman, whipping around, nearly spills the baby from the stroller, I'm still there; she sees no one run over in the street, just me slowly approaching a stop sign, smiling. This is no good — I don't want to catch the lady frowning tomorrow as I feed a bill into the dollar scratcher machine at Hyvee.

I miss the metropolis. Driving in Southern California, I used to enjoy screaming as loud as possible. It was a nice way to expend some energy. The body reaches toward a pinnacle without really doing anything. I always smiled afterwards — it felt good. The only other places I've found that I can scream like that are mountains and deserts, wide stretches where you're certain no one is listening. When I screamed on the highway, surrounded by thousands of people, I don't think it was from rage but joy, the thrill of being alone in a wilderness. I can't do this in Iowa City. The town is too small. Through the rolled up windows, the scream reaches the mail carrier, the boy raking the leaves, the lady pushing the stroller. I suppose it wouldn't be so bad if I were able to drive away quickly, but in my neighborhood the roads are narrow, the speed limit slow, and when the startled woman, whipping around, nearly spills the baby from the stroller, I'm still there; she sees no one run over in the street, just me slowly approaching a stop sign, smiling. This is no good — I don't want to catch the lady frowning tomorrow as I feed a bill into the dollar scratcher machine at Hyvee.
            As a consequence of this inability to scream, since I moved to Iowa I've begun chewing tobacco. Somehow, I also started listening to trashy hip hop. It's strange how well they work together. While my lips remain closed, their cells melting and reconfiguring, tobacco screams inside me, pushing my body to the limits of endurance. At the same time, the hip hop, with its heavy bass, glitchy clicks and effortless poetic praise of vagina, money and drugs, creates an even atmosphere of catharsis. While I drive around, if these two things together don't make me feel precisely like I'm floating in a wilderness, at least, temporarily, they form a hospitable void — if I haven't found the mild, refreshing peace of Anza Borrego winds, blue Sierra streams, and smooth LA on-ramps, at least in the calm, enlightened emptiness of songs sung by serial killers, drug lords and billionaires, my blood bathed in nicotine, I touch something similar. Without the least exertion, while I drive past the woman pushing the stroller, it's as if I'm experiencing both the scream and its relief simultaneously. It makes me smile. Spit fills the Gatorade bottle as I keep the worthless raps on repeat and I feel perfectly alone, perfectly happy. But not at home. I miss the metropolis, the mountains.

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About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


BARRET BAUMGART

Barret Baumgart is a student in the Nonfiction Writing Program at the University of Iowa.

This page was first displayed
on March 07, 2013

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