My first memory of Florence is twisted ankles. I’d packed just one pair of boots: light faux leather, popular at the time, but with no tread, causing me to perpetually slip into the generous gaps between cobblestones slick with gutter runoff. The rain’s gloss resembled skin stretched tight over the city’s streets.
How Time Works, Creative Nonfiction
After my father toured what would become our neighborhood in Fairfax, California, he knocked on the nearest door and asked the man who answered if it was nice living there. That man told me this story years later as he walked me across the street to the house my father bought after their meeting.
I don’t remember the Pences’ pink magnolia tree until I’m looking up at it, pinching a fallen blossom between my thumb and forefinger until the petal bruises a light brown. My childhood home is across the street.
A woman welcomes me to the party with a blue ball and instructions to drop it in one of the plastic boxes lining the back wall. They’re labeled: "ashamed," "disconnected," "frustrated," "anxious," "neutral," "curious," "relaxed," "excited," "confident." I’m supposed to choose the one that best represents how I feel talking about sexual desire.
I got a UTI two to three times a month when I was being repeatedly raped. I went to a doctor, and they asked if I was bathing enough, and then prescribed a preventative antibiotic to take before I had sex. Though my body was clearly rebelling against what was happening, no one listened to it—including me. The doctor didn’t ask if my sexually active relationship was consensual or not, and I didn’t have the language to tell them otherwise.
I was a bookseller when I first encountered Kristin Newman’s travel memoir nestled among the morning delivery. Squinting for a moment, I recognized the red blob beneath the title — What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding — as a lipstick kiss on an airplane window.
I’d known Monica 20 years when her sister was killed in a hit-and-run motorcycle accident. We spent our childhoods in a tiny Bay Area town that I left at 14. I only went back to visit twice.
I don’t know much about my mother’s early twenties in Los Angeles. From photographs, I know she favored mauve nail polish and owned a leopard print one-piece. She’s told me about the car prone to breaking down in Hollywood, her job at a large news station, and the boss who once painted her own lips with whiteout. Frozen burritos were often my mother’s dinner. She dated a man named E.
Travel Writing is Bad, Public Intellectual
There are consequences to travel. From the environmental impact of international flights, to massive displacement in trendy neighborhoods for air bnb vacation rentals, to unfair distribution of tourist dollars, and so on. But travel writing has never been great at dealing with the ethical or moral questions of travel. It’s very narcissistic and internal. The point of travel, as viewed through the travel writer, is the impact the journey is having on the traveler, not the impact the traveler is having on the place. In this episode, Jessa calls writer Haley Swanson to discuss these ideas.
The wind kicks up as I wait for the 8 p.m. bus, so I wedge my gloved hands into my armpits. I’ll eat Cream of Wheat for dinner because I can’t afford meat, I tell my mother back home. I’m lying; I can’t keep solid food down anymore.