Daily Palette Double Feature

Reenacting (essay excerpt)

From the window, we could see all of Gettysburg: the buildings and streets and shops, and beyond, the observation towers and all those fields.  They were white and soft and shining, glittering like glass beneath the sun.

"This is great," he said excitedly, and I felt suddenly proud to stand beside him.  He's not wishing for his death, I thought, but the vivacity of his future.

"The Confederates moved that way," he said, dragging his finger through the clean, clear air.  "They moved in dense formation until they reached the rocks of Devil's Den."

He said it and I tried to picture them, take interest the way he did.  I pictured men and then whole armies, soldiers hidden amongst the rocks.  I saw clusters of young, tan men, clutching rifles, their foreheads hot.  I saw them crouching low, their bodies hiding among the brush, while women waited in clapboard houses, their children clinging to nightgown hems.

We explored that house for another hour, and then Kevin left and I forgot: about his hospitalization, his depression, any responsibility I had to him as his friend.  I let the days turn into weeks and those weeks turn into months.  An entire year went by, and we cooked dinners and went to movies, hung out with friends and drank cheap beer, but never—in all that time—did I ask Kevin how he'd felt, or how it was that he felt now.

I kept his bar of soap in a drawer inside my desk.

When the following fall he began to date Emily Silverstein, I was happiest for him.  She brought him out of himself, he said.  She talked about things that truly mattered.

"It's like I completely open up," he said.  "I can tell her anything."

I knew precisely what he meant, but again there was that discomfort.  Mental illness seemed too taboo, too intimate a conversation to share between two friends; it seemed some secret, private burden, one I—and many others—thought he could carry on his own.

Daily Palette Double Feature


Amy Butcher holds an MFA from the Nonfiction Writing Program at the University of Iowa.  Her first book, Visiting Hours: A Memoir of Friendship and Murder, was published by Penguin in April 2015.

Reenacting won the 2014 Iowa Review Award, as judged by David Shields.

Stay tuned: Amy Butcher will be featured again tomorrow!

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

This page was first displayed
on August 26, 2015

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