There's just no time anymore.

There is no time for myself, no time to be myself. I'm a pawn; a piece of two organizations whose readers don't see or know of my involvement.

I have never been more frustrated ... with work, with people, with relationships, with promises and ideas ...

... with the lack of time I have.


In small circles, I explore my new surroundings. I walk from my apartment, circle the Victorian home a few times. I stroll the streets around my new place of employment, gradually increasing my number of steps. Slowly, slowly, slowly, the circle widens and expands. It expands to stores, restaurants, stops, paths, parks. I see things I wish to experience, taste things that warm my chilled insides. I'm adjusting.

I spent a bit of time at my local Goodwill which, surprising for its small size, actually warranted a few finds. In the end, I purchased only two things--two black belts.

In Ames, I revisited the British food market. "The boyfriend liked the Marmite," I told the owner, who shuddered once he heard Hans had mixed the yeasty extract with peanut butter. "You should have seen his face when he first tried it, though."

I hadn't seen a model guillotine before, either.

Coke bottles, radios, ancient board games and forgotten toys ... the Cupcake Emporium was a vintage wonderland.

That's a dark chocolate raspberry cupcake, in case you're wondering.

And yet, there are many more places.

So many more.

Driving Music

The radio in my car doesn’t work so well right now. For awhile, it was only static—a humming white noise that would make you shake your head in buzzing frustration. It disappeared the last time I drove into town, just up and vanished; no sound, no vibrations—just a cacophony of rioting airwaves.

The lack of sound disappointed me; on the drives to and from work, my car was—like my apartment—far too quiet. Just last week, however, I chanced it and pressed the sunflower-colored power button. I was surprised—music. Subtle, quiet … but there. Though I quickly discovered that the volume could be no louder than one-fourth its potential, I was satisfied.

You see, when I’m driving, when I’m on those long and lonely trips, I listen to music. I sing loudly and dominantly, afraid of no one.

Afraid of everything.

The beat of a Stabbing Westward song previously unheard by my ears pounds through my veins, my fingertips. I want to level the accelerator, propel myself up and over the hills. Rush through and blend with the natural beauty of a landscape forgotten and unchanged.

Florence and the Machine, Shakira, The Killers, Beirut. Vagabonds and devils, I sing them all, sing them proudly. Sing them obnoxiously, like I did the endless stream of Christmas carols just a few weeks ago. It was awkward driving, I’m sure, to pass me on the road and see me exaggerating the lyrics with contorted lips, bopping my head and mimicking “A Night at the Roxbury.”

Each song I listen to reminds me of something else—of someone else. There’s the crooning voice of James Taylor and the lyrics of “God Only Knows” that remind me of Brent, a friend who I once lusted after. There are the melodramatic creations of Muse, a band introduced to me by D.J. who, one summer, dueled with Brent for my attention. There are songs from my brother’s darker days, from my mother’s teenage years. Music from my childhood makes me weepy and nostalgic, though not as angrily sad as the tunes that remind me of my last relationship—a three-year courtship that did not end pleasantly or expectedly.

The songs remind me of everyone who isn’t with me, of everyone who still is. They are in my thoughts, my mind, my heart, my feelings, my memory. In fact, it is when I am driving that I think of them most often. My sudden recollections of memory remind me of two words that Ty—an old soul whose reclusiveness warrants surprising bits of wisdom—associates with driving: reflective and relaxing. Indeed, I may not have my best thoughts while propelling “the beast” through the Midwest, but I certainly have better ones.

Having songs to listen to is certainly better than resorting to the music inside my head, for it is far too unharmonious. Jumbled thoughts and racing ideas and should-I-do-this-es and I-need-to-that-s and I-can’t-do-this-this-is-too-much-es. I think and I ponder, meditate until, like the Grinch, my “puzzler is sore.” I realize how easy it is to think when you are alone, how easy it is to remember the past. I look around me, at the hills and fields, and believe that the land cultivates to the people’s thoughts. They don’t distract me from my own memories, and I am often reminded of how easily I have fallen in lust.

I count, aloud, how many interests I’ve had, discover that I’ve had sixteen. I have not loved all, nor have I even dated half, for the sixteen include the crushes of a five-year-old, as well as the grade-school of-course-I’ll-play-Mortal-Kombat-at-recess-with-you “love interests.” I am embarrassed at my ability to admire a former boss. My easy infatuation even allowed me to envision my fifth-grade teacher as a father figure. I did the same with my sixth-grade teacher, calling attention to myself; subconsciously, I knew I needed the guidance and support from two parents.

It amazes me how easily I can care for so many people. In the end, I wonder if anyone remembers me—even the strangers who, for a just moment, I passed by. Surely, the elderly couple at the mall—the one who always wore matching polos, including ones of a vivid canary-yellow—do not remember me. Do the people to whom I once offered a ride remember? Does the saleswoman at Target who I made laugh return home and tell her mother/sister/brother/husband/boyfriend/roommate/cat the same joke? Any of those people—the sweet couple, the busy sales clerk—may have been having a good day, a bad day. They may not remember my name, my business, my smile … but my face, still there, still remembered, may appear in one of their dreams as the face of a stranger.

All these things weave and worm through my brain as I drive, as I criss-cross the countryside. I don’t mind the sun sometimes, the images it shows. I can taste you on my lips and smell you in my clothes. Cinnamon and sugary and softly spoken lies… I sing, I hum, I move. I drive. I reach for my CD case, grab a disc at random and surprise myself with melodies as I feed it into the reader. Coldplay, the soundtrack to Shrek 2, a Phil Collins mix for my brother, Shiny Toy Guns.

“Who does remember me?” I ask myself, happy that the music is not just in my head. “What do people think of me when they are driving? Do they think of me at all?” I go back to singing.

You never know just how you look through other people’s eyes.

Blinded by the White

It’s snowing.

I don’t realize it for awhile; I just drive. My beams are on low, and I hardly notice the small specks that dance through the light and beyond my windshield. When there are no cars—for, unlike the other late nights, the road is not deserted—I flick my brights on.

There is white.

Sudden white.


Comets of snowflakes that fly fast fast fast toward me and then pass, pass me, pass my windshield. They fly out of the darkness, heavenly speeding and giving me the sensation that I am a part of a screensaver, an old default in which I sit, stationary and shrouded in darkness, while bursts of white heat soar in and out of my peripheral vision.

I think of the shivering girls I saw just twenty minutes earlier, the college students at the corner bus stop. Had their knightly, oversized-carriage rescued them from the eighteen-degree weather? By the time I reach my apartment, would the icy crystals be collecting beneath their three-inch heels and clinging to their too-short skirts?

I keep driving, inching forward, propelling myself and my mechanical horse ten more miles. Each vehicle I encounter is clouded with a golden veil of headlights and snowflakes.

I slide ever so gently off the highway and into Boone, my tires slipping an inch or two. I coast down the road, gliding. There is a buzz about the streetlights, a soft hum like the insects that swarm stadium lights at Friday-night football games. I stare at the cloud, admire its fuzz as I approach it. Snow is gently falling, falling, floating, falling, then sparkling, shiny and sparkling and glittering and I’m coming closer and closer and closer to the lightpracticallythere now I am and they are sparkling not alive shiny and...gone.

Onto my hood. Over my roof. Suffocating against my windows, they’re gone.

Another streetlight. Another stare-down. Floating, falling, sparkling, shiny, gone. The pattern repeats a block later, then two blocks after that, then another, and another … dozens of streetlights and gentle, delicate crystals.

My tires grind for traction as I turn onto 6th, its icy coating untouched. I see that, as usual, my neighbor’s light is on. It burns thickly, and I know that the orange of their lamps will be reflect through their window and ignite my room. I park my car in the narrow garage and prepare to enter the frigid air.

I breathe sharply when I step into the cold, the chilled air filing my lungs. Despite the wintry atmosphere, it is quiet, peaceful. The snow muffles my footsteps, and I leave footprints upon the aged bricks.

I am alone and outside, but not scared. Not scared like I have been the last two nights, when I inch past the garage and the side of the house, peering over my shoulder for anyone, anything. There is no howling wind on this night, only swirling flakes that blanket homes and streets and train tracks.

The steps groan and creek and heave as I crawl and creep upstairs to my little efficiency, my little place. A turn of the key, a turn of the handle, and I’m in. It’s warm. Warm, but reeking of the stiff new shower liner I hung up just before leaving.

I have just completed my first two weeks of work. I am unsure of what to think at this point, unsure of how I should feel or what I should be doing. I am lost and unprepared, confused and undisciplined in when I should eat, sleep, and speak to another human being. So, instead, I write. I turn on my computer and type, think and compose sentences and phrases and words that make me remember the snow, force me to remember my late-night drives home and the racing thoughts I have during them.

When I struggle, I lean over the window seat and peek between the blinds. I cup my hands to the glass and peer outside, stare at the white, the fragile, thin layer of white. It’s still snowing. Still falling, still gently falling, falling, floating.

Welcome to Ames

I'm alive, truly, and I have much to say. Unfortunately, today is not the day for reciting tales of moving, for sharing my stresses and worries and wonders about my first real job. I have been here, in my first apartment--an upstairs efficiency in an 1898 Victorian home--for just over a week. Until yesterday, I was without Internet, and I found it difficult to check anything, to write anything or share information or respond to individuals when I could nab only a few minutes, a few seconds, between stories and pages and deadlines. So today, I share only some photos--some images of the town in which I now work. Most photos, honestly, are from a corner store--one on Main and Burnett--that housed Christmas trees and all of their decor. I have not been in it since the time of my interview, so I do not know what it now boasts.

The buildings are old, the streets are narrow. During the day, there is a reasonable amount of people hobbling the old streets, peering into windows of antique shops and hustling to coffee hours. There are Thai restaurants, Subways, bars, breweries, and heavenly chocolate stores with gelato. Both the library and the post office are nearby, and it is here--adjacent to luxury children's clothes and quilting supply stores and British food markets--that I work.

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