Iowa Writes

MIRIAM TOVALEVINE
Excerpt from "After a Month"


...The seed planted by the old men's conversation had taken root, though. The next day Amira looked through the classifieds. She used to put them directly into the recycling each morning when she brought in the paper. Now she stuffed them in the case she took to the lab. She read while the particle accelerator heated up, circling possibilities with her yellow highlighter. Something near the subway station would be ideal. They could get into the city more easily, and they wouldn't have to worry about parking. It took forever to find a spot and she hated parallel parking, especially in a car that always seemed gigantic compared to the little Peugeot she used to drive. Besides, Briarcliff was too quiet. Maybe they should find something in midtown. Amira missed the cacophony she'd grown up with: car horns and ambulance sirens competing with techno from clubs, and even the sounds of children up until all hours of the night. Mostly Amira just wanted to escape behind the mindless methodical routine of organizing and packing and labeling, and to get away from the close walls of the house.
     She waited to tell Ari. They said little to each other these days: "Pass the salt," or "See you tonight." Ari would've compared it to an impermeable membrane. Amira saw but did not comment on the fact that when Ari was tired, he cut things into Eitan-sized bites: tomatoes, meat, eggplant. She stayed silent too when once, when she went into the library to find an old textbook and he thought she wasn't paying attention, she caught him in the rocking chair reading Where The Wild Things Are, Eitan's favorite picture book. Sometimes, he just stared off into space.Then she knew his pillow would be damp the next morning when she made the bed.

...The seed planted by the old men's conversation had taken root, though. The next day Amira looked through the classifieds. She used to put them directly into the recycling each morning when she brought in the paper. Now she stuffed them in the case she took to the lab. She read while the particle accelerator heated up, circling possibilities with her yellow highlighter. Something near the subway station would be ideal. They could get into the city more easily, and they wouldn't have to worry about parking. It took forever to find a spot and she hated parallel parking, especially in a car that always seemed gigantic compared to the little Peugeot she used to drive. Besides, Briarcliff was too quiet. Maybe they should find something in midtown. Amira missed the cacophony she'd grown up with: car horns and ambulance sirens competing with techno from clubs, and even the sounds of children up until all hours of the night. Mostly Amira just wanted to escape behind the mindless methodical routine of organizing and packing and labeling, and to get away from the close walls of the house.
     She waited to tell Ari. They said little to each other these days: "Pass the salt," or "See you tonight." Ari would've compared it to an impermeable membrane. Amira saw but did not comment on the fact that when Ari was tired, he cut things into Eitan-sized bites: tomatoes, meat, eggplant. She stayed silent too when once, when she went into the library to find an old textbook and he thought she wasn't paying attention, she caught him in the rocking chair reading Where The Wild Things Are, Eitan's favorite picture book. Sometimes, he just stared off into space.Then she knew his pillow would be damp the next morning when she made the bed.
     It was unfair, though, to keep this from him. So one evening Amira made Ari's favorite dinner, lamb stew with raisins, onions, and almonds. She even made kubbeh soup. These were dishes she usually cooked only on weekends, when she didn't mind being tied to the kitchen for several hours while the meat and the soup simmered. She hadn't cooked like this in six weeks and realized she'd missed it. When the food was ready, she drove to the fancy market and bought the mango nectar Ari loved. At eight she set the table with the white-and-silver tablecloth that had been an anniversary present. Ari must have been pleased, because he went so far as to make small talk over dinner.
When he finished the mango juice Amira brought up her idea. "The house is so quiet now."
     "Yes." He looked past the buffet toward the playroom, where Eitan used to park himself after dinner. He'd have been chattering away, playing "Traffic" with his trucks and hoping to evade bath-time.
     "Too quiet."
     "It's a quiet neighborhood."
     "I want to move." Well, that was subtle. Amira kicked herself inwardly. Too late, though.
     Ari set down his glass with a thud, splashing a few drops onto the tablecloth. He barely managed to swallow. "Move? Why? You were so excited to buy this house. You chose it." He ignored the orange stains forming on the tablecloth. Would it sound crazy if she said the house was stale? "I just can't stay here. Not after..."
     "And I won't leave." Ari spoke softly but with determination. He reached over and took a section of Haaretz and pushed his wife the Times: end of discussion. When Amira finished reading the main section she loaded the dishwasher and put away the leftovers in silence. She left the cloth - it would have to go to the cleaners, and it would probably still be stained. Ari didn't look up from his article, a review of Etgar Keret's latest short-story collection. If he just avoided eye contact, the rest of the night might be argument-free. But this couldn't possibly be the end of the matter. Indeed, before Ari left for lab in the morning Amira presented him with a list of reasons to move, numbered according to importance. He only glanced at it long enough to see number four: no more hassle of cleaning such a big house. Shula called, and Amira went into the den. When she was safely out of the way, Ari ripped up the list. He told her he'd put it in his pocket. Afterward he felt guilty.
But only slightly.

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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


MIRIAM TOVALEVINE

Miriam is a fourth-year medical student at Wayne State University who will pursue postgraduate training in Internal Medicine, also at Wayne State. She holds a BA in English Language and Literature from the University of Michigan, where she won a Hopwood Award, Underclassmen Category, for short-story collection. She is a presenter in The Examined Life conference held in Iowa City.

The Examined Life is a three-day conference in April focusing on the links between the science of medicine and the art of writing and sponsored by the University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine.

This page was first displayed
on May 23, 2011

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