Lies I Have Already Told You

Despite my “About” section, I don’t live in Iowa City–not yet. I’m still living in my tiny cottage in Berkeley, slowly accumulating empty boxes for packing my books, my pots and pans, my growing collection of scarves.

It’s been warmer than usual over the last week and a half, and the sunlight that streams through the skylights warms up the cottage like a dutch oven. Even with a fan circulating steady breaths of air between the two small windows that I have opened to their dirty, ratty screens, and the front door standing wide open, I’m still finding it hard to write, hard to concentrate on anything except pink wine and Law and Order: SVU. Two of my fellow soon-to-be-cohorts have already gone to Iowa City ahead of me, and I have their books stacked a neat cube next to my writing table, ready to be loaded into the ReloCube when it arrives in my driveway at the end of July. The vines that encircle this house snag my clothes with their thin green leaves and whorling tendrils when I walk past. Every morning, I hear the squabbling of birds, my neighbor’s dog barking hysterically at the fat squirrel that lives in their backyard, and the dull, steady buzzing of fat bees working their way into the open azaleas.

I am going to miss California. I know this already. When Samantha Chang first called me to invite me to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, I was dizzy with surprise, and excited. When the shock had worn off, I felt viciously glad in knowing that I was going to shake the Bay Area from my body soon enough. California has done nothing bad to me, specifically, but 2009 was an unpleasant year in my life, and I felt gleeful to be leaving it behind–not just that horrible year, which will always be remembered as “a time of crying so hard I threw up”, but the street corners and trees and shaded avenues and restaurants that remind me of things that I’d rather just forget. Time will push events further and further away from you at exactly its own pace–not fast, not slow, perfectly measured–but 2,000 miles probably wouldn’t hurt, either.

But I’m starting to miss her already. California. Berkeley. The people here. The cheap avocados. Even as I lust after Iowa City’s thunderstorms and fireflies and the workshop and other things that I want so badly, I miss the West Coast. I remember when I first set to move out here, how frightened I was, how giddy with excitement. Even as I wound lazily around the United States, taking in all of her beauty, I made childlike grabby-hands towards the Pacific Ocean.

I feel guilty that I had such a rush of pleasure at the idea of leaving this place.

On the way to Sea Ranch, CA

2 thoughts on “Lies I Have Already Told You

  1. Mommy

    Now you know how I feel about WI. One other thing you added to your about section that is exaggerated is that Oliver doesn’t look like a cow. But how would a city girl know that? You will learn soon enough that he looks like a dog, like a dog.

  2. Hi Carmen,
    I hope your move to Iowa City goes well and you meet many interesting people and find material to inspire your writing.
    You are welcome to use our guest room if want to visit in Madison/Evansville to see Olivia and the rest of the May family. Hugs and kisses from Shanna and Gavin.
    Love,
    Jack

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