Iowa Writes

MESHA MAREN
July 2007 (part 1)


        Miranda had her bathing suit halfway on when the phone began to ring. Her stomach clenched and she let go of the elastic material and turned to look at the blinking machine with the hand-scrawled note taped to the side: Front Desk Dial "0" All Other Calls Yer Expense. She moved her eyes from the phone to the wall, the heavy yellow curtains and bits and pieces of brightly colored clothing strewn across the unmade bed. The phone stopped. Miranda eyed it once more and then walked toward the bathroom, blue one-piece suit bunched around her hips and tits naked in the musty light. She took a bottle down off the shelf above the toilet, palmed it open and set two capsules on the back of her tongue. She was breaking her "not before noon" rule but today . . . well, today would be an exception. She'd already moved down from Dexedrine to Adderall and that was something to grasp onto, something of a victory.
        The phone stayed silent, another small victory, and Miranda turned her attention back to her swimsuit, enjoying the feel of the material as it cupped her ass. Too tight, her mother would have said. Her body was softer since the boys were born. It filled everything differently now but she liked it better that way. Her skin gave off a warm fullness that felt more real, more fully hers than the taut teenage body that came before.
        She'd loved being pregnant and had felt, in a way, that it was her natural state. The things that were out of balance normally had aligned themselves somehow during pregnancy, her mood swings steadied and her great cosmic yearnings were traded in for simple, sweet tooth cravings. She had cared for herself, really truly cared in a way she never had before. She'd taken the vitamins and planned meals and slept deeply, waking to examine her own body with a gushing eagerness, as if she were the new thing being created.
        But after Kaleb was born and grew big enough to be away from her for more than a few minutes it had all returned. The shuddering anxiety, the certainty of one day dripping into the next and her life telescoping into a meaningless gray mist. It was only in pregnancy that things got simple again and she could smile and laugh at the knowledge that she was nothing more than a collection of sensations. Cold now, warm later, hungry then full, horny, sated. The pills, if she balanced them out right, did something similar but not the same.

        Miranda had her bathing suit halfway on when the phone began to ring. Her stomach clenched and she let go of the elastic material and turned to look at the blinking machine with the hand-scrawled note taped to the side: Front Desk Dial "0" All Other Calls Yer Expense. She moved her eyes from the phone to the wall, the heavy yellow curtains and bits and pieces of brightly colored clothing strewn across the unmade bed. The phone stopped. Miranda eyed it once more and then walked toward the bathroom, blue one-piece suit bunched around her hips and tits naked in the musty light. She took a bottle down off the shelf above the toilet, palmed it open and set two capsules on the back of her tongue. She was breaking her "not before noon" rule but today . . . well, today would be an exception. She'd already moved down from Dexedrine to Adderall and that was something to grasp onto, something of a victory.
        The phone stayed silent, another small victory, and Miranda turned her attention back to her swimsuit, enjoying the feel of the material as it cupped her ass. Too tight, her mother would have said. Her body was softer since the boys were born. It filled everything differently now but she liked it better that way. Her skin gave off a warm fullness that felt more real, more fully hers than the taut teenage body that came before.
        She'd loved being pregnant and had felt, in a way, that it was her natural state. The things that were out of balance normally had aligned themselves somehow during pregnancy, her mood swings steadied and her great cosmic yearnings were traded in for simple, sweet tooth cravings. She had cared for herself, really truly cared in a way she never had before. She'd taken the vitamins and planned meals and slept deeply, waking to examine her own body with a gushing eagerness, as if she were the new thing being created.
        But after Kaleb was born and grew big enough to be away from her for more than a few minutes it had all returned. The shuddering anxiety, the certainty of one day dripping into the next and her life telescoping into a meaningless gray mist. It was only in pregnancy that things got simple again and she could smile and laugh at the knowledge that she was nothing more than a collection of sensations. Cold now, warm later, hungry then full, horny, sated. The pills, if she balanced them out right, did something similar but not the same.
        And now Lee had had taken the boys. Kaleb, Donnie and Ross were gone, so far outside of her body that weeks passed when she didn't even see them at all. Still, there were places where her skin remembered. Places where, by holding and growing her sons, her body had become dearer. The softness of her stomach and thighs and tits.
        She grabbed a towel from the bathroom rack and stepped outside into the slap of sunlight and muggy heat. The smell of hot blacktop and rubber. She locked her door and walked the long way around to the pool, avoiding the plate glass windows of the front office and the cleaning lady's cart. She had told Alfredia she would pay extra for the days she owed if she could keep giving them to her on credit, but Alfredia did not own the place.
        As she pushed open the gate, Miranda felt the amphetamine jangle in her veins. She slowed, warming to it. The pool was clear and ripple-less, shadowed momentarily by a passing cloud that intensified the blue water. She set her towel on a plastic chair and turning, caught sight of a man on the second floor, looking down at her through the window. She felt again the smooth line of the bathing suit where it cupped her ass, but this time she saw it from the outside, through his eyes, and something in her sparked. She moved towards the pool, aware of every muscle. The water was a little too warm but it softened the dry, parking lot heat. She dove under, stretched her arms wide and imagined her body from above, a blond sparkling thing.
        For as long as she could remember, she'd seen her own body like this. As if on camera, an observed thing. Under other eyes she moved more smoothly, fully in existence. It was always a question of audience. Without observing eyes, what did the ass in the swimsuit even mean? She'd tried to explain it once, when her mother caught her watching her own face in the rearview mirror. Vanity her mother had called it, the seventh deadly sin. And, sure, it was a dependence, Miranda thought, but not so much vanity as a way to understand being a girl in the world.

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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


MESHA MAREN

Mesha Maren is a fiction writer from southern West Virginia whose work appears in Tin House, The Oxford American, Hobart, The Barcelona Review, and other literary journals, as well as the anthology Forty Stories: New Writing from Harper Perennial.  She is the recipient of a 2014 Elizabeth George Foundation Grant, an Appalachian Writing Fellowship from LMU University, and a residency fellowship from the Ucross Foundation.  She is currently working on a collection of interconnected short stories and a novel.  She lives in Iowa City.

July 2007 is an excerpt from the forthcoming novel Sugar Run.  It will be published on the Daily Palette in two parts.

Check back tomorrow to see part 2 of this excerpt!

This page was first displayed
on March 18, 2015

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