Iowa Writes

MESHA MAREN
July 2007 (part 2)


        She stayed under water as long as her lungs would last then burst up and dipped again, enjoying the strength of her arms, slicing and pulling. The pool was too short. She flipped at each end in a neat tuck and kept going the opposite way. She'd been on the YWCA swim team in high school but dropped out junior year, too eager to join her future. A future which had now gone on past, it seemed, and left her puzzling over every minute. Still, swimming felt a little like a prayer, or better than a prayer, more like that universal sound the Buddhists made. Everything dropped away, the boys and Lee, the unpaid room, the Adderall. The water was continuous, expansive. Her muscles moved instinctually and when her lungs burned her body glided up, took in air then burrowed again.
        She felt the man there. Even before his shadow spread across the surface of the pool, her body slowed. He knelt at the edge and she surfaced. The camera angled, zooming to catch the drops of water and light along the tops of her tits.
        "You're a good swimmer," the man said.
        She would sleep with him. The conclusion was to her entirely forgone. The interesting thing would be to see how they got from the pool to the room. What set of words would string the distance this time.
        "I've been watching you down here. What are you, like captain of the swim team?"
        The man was named Daniel, a bricklayer from someplace up north of Atlanta. He'd come down with a crew, he told Miranda, to build a new shopping mall, but now the contractor said he could get Mexicans to do it for half the price and so they were out on their asses while they waited to see if the contract was binding.
        "Where are you from?" he asked.
        Miranda tied her towel around her waist and squinted at him. Mid-twenties with bright eyes and a sun-worn face. Small frame and a blond beard.
        "Here and there," she said.
        "Where's here and there?"
        "Well." She smiled. "Here, I guess. I mean here."
        "Here, like this town here?"
        "Yeah, Chaunceloraine."
        He cocked his head.
        She glanced over at the motel. "Baby-daddy problems," she said.

        She stayed under water as long as her lungs would last then burst up and dipped again, enjoying the strength of her arms, slicing and pulling. The pool was too short. She flipped at each end in a neat tuck and kept going the opposite way. She'd been on the YWCA swim team in high school but dropped out junior year, too eager to join her future. A future which had now gone on past, it seemed, and left her puzzling over every minute. Still, swimming felt a little like a prayer, or better than a prayer, more like that universal sound the Buddhists made. Everything dropped away, the boys and Lee, the unpaid room, the Adderall. The water was continuous, expansive. Her muscles moved instinctually and when her lungs burned her body glided up, took in air then burrowed again.
        She felt the man there. Even before his shadow spread across the surface of the pool, her body slowed. He knelt at the edge and she surfaced. The camera angled, zooming to catch the drops of water and light along the tops of her tits.
        "You're a good swimmer," the man said.
        She would sleep with him. The conclusion was to her entirely forgone. The interesting thing would be to see how they got from the pool to the room. What set of words would string the distance this time.
        "I've been watching you down here. What are you, like captain of the swim team?"
        The man was named Daniel, a bricklayer from someplace up north of Atlanta. He'd come down with a crew, he told Miranda, to build a new shopping mall, but now the contractor said he could get Mexicans to do it for half the price and so they were out on their asses while they waited to see if the contract was binding.
        "Where are you from?" he asked.
        Miranda tied her towel around her waist and squinted at him. Mid-twenties with bright eyes and a sun-worn face. Small frame and a blond beard.
        "Here and there," she said.
        "Where's here and there?"
        "Well." She smiled. "Here, I guess. I mean here."
        "Here, like this town here?"
        "Yeah, Chaunceloraine."
        He cocked his head.
        She glanced over at the motel. "Baby-daddy problems," she said.
        Daniel wanted to take her to ride some rides at the carnival down the street but she would need another few pills and less sunlight before she'd be ready for anything quite like that. She traded the towel for a pink sundress that she pulled on over her still wet suit and they walked to the gas station for cigarettes, Seven Crown and premixed margarita in a bag. He wanted to take her to his room but she knew her own would smell better.
        It turned out that the words that brought bodies together were never quite as interesting as one might think. Still it was nice to have someone in the bed with her. The boys had stayed there that first month and now, whenever she was alone, she could never quite stop hearing their voices in the room.
        Daniel finished quickly and as soon as he had rolled away she wanted to touch herself, to stay there inside her body. But masturbating had always made her feel sloppy and ugly. Though there were times lately when it constituted the high point of her days, she had to be alone. The images that stirred her seemed, not so much perverse as simply embarrassing. Alone in a room with the shades drawn and her eyes closed she touched herself and imagined she was the voyeur. She was the not-so-attractive, middle-aged man fucking a girl not unlike her own younger self. Go ahead, she thought, psychoanalyze that shit. 
        The margarita was too sweet but she drank it anyhow, adding a little Seven Crown every now and then. Daniel sat beside her on the bed, fully dressed, flipping channels and trying not to act like he was eager to leave. She bummed cigarettes and tried to find the words to ask him about money. Not money for the sex, not like getting paid, just like how friends can loan you money without it having to mean anything. But saying it out loud seemed too sad. It was some old deep-rooted Christian propriety mixed up with the fact that money would take away the part where she wanted him to touch her. It would flatten the whole thing. She needed cash though, really needed the cash, but before the words could surface the Seconal she'd swallowed just before sex kicked in and she drifted.
        Lately it was always water dreams. But the water in her sleep was dark and too deep. Her boys were on the other side, Kaleb in the middle, holding tight to Donnie and Ross. She swam towards them, confident in her strength, smiling, but no matter how quick she moved there was always something rushing faster under her, a current that would reach them before her, a cold, writhing muscle of a stream.
        She woke to the sound of a key and, scrambling, pulled the sheet up over her naked body. Alone and unsure of where she was. She focused on the yellow curtains and the door slowly opening. A face appeared in that gash of sharp light. A tower of frizzy hair. Alfredia.
        "Honey this is it. You gotta get your shit and be out of here tomorrow. I can't hold him off no more. He's talking small claims court now." She raised her eyebrows, showing thick swaths of green eyeshadow. "And if I don't get better at this eviction shit, I ain't gonna have no job."
        Miranda blinked.
        "You owe me for the six days I done covered."
        Miranda's mind reached out for something to say and the sheet slipped from her fist.
        "Put some clothes on and bring whatever it is you been taking up to the office, pay me with that."
        "Alfredia," Miranda called, unsticking her tongue from the roof of her mouth as the tall woman turned away. "You'll read my tarot for me?"
        "Not again, sugar," Alfredia said, squinting back into the dark room. "Your future don't change in one day."

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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 is published here in two parts.

If you missed part 1, be sure to visit yesterday's page.

This page was first displayed
on March 19, 2015

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