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1 essay

by Hannah Soyer

Hannah Soyer is a queer disabled writer interested in exploring representations of othered bodies. Her work has appeared in CosmopolitanEntropyMikrokosos JournalBrain Mill PressDisability Visibility Project, and Rooted in Rights, among other places. She is the founder of This Body is Worthy, a project aimed at celebrating bodies outside of mainstream societal ideals, and Words of Reclamation, a space for disabled writers.  She is the editor of The Ending Hasn't Happened Yet, a forthcoming anthology featuring work from disabled, chronically ill, and neurodivergent writers, from Sable Books. Hannah also happens to be a cat and chocolate enthusiast.

13 Things, Iowa City

after Lily Hoang’s "13 Remotely Related to South Bend, Indiana"

1.      When I first got to Iowa City I was still running on four years of pent-up anger at my dead friend. Little flickers of heat that would rupture my skin and leave me stumbling in an alley after one too many shots (if I could stumble), or feet pounding the pavement beneath me during midnight excursions across the river (if my feet ever touched the ground), or hands shoving someone back, someone off, someone away (if my arms had the strength to push a body).

2.      We all were balanced on a thin line. The city was balanced on a thin line. I could have said yes to many more things than I did and who knows where I would have ended up. Terrorists love the GOP chalked on sidewalks, but Sammie wouldn’t walk through her apartment’s parking lot alone because of the truck with a Confederate flag sticker.


3.      There were rumors that Oprah paid for Alpha Chi Omega’s house to be rebuilt after the 2008 flood. Even the shittiest Iowa City apartment had a higher rent than the nicest loft in downtown Des Moines. All the landlords are involved in a lawsuit, last I heard.


4.      What a swanky apartment! My friends would always say the first time they came over. I’d have to explain it was the only accessible place to live.


5.      There was the time I almost threw up when I had to tell my helper she wouldn’t be working for me next year. I was terrified and instead wanted to separate myself from my body.


6.      There was the time I almost threw up because I had taken a shot of Jameson on an empty stomach at 2 in the afternoon in hopes of impressing a girl I was still realizing I was into. If Casey were still alive, she’d say yes to this, I thought, probably too often.


7.      There was the time I almost threw up because I had to explain this to my parents.


8.      There was the time I did throw up, every morning for a week straight, not because I was sick but because I suddenly knew, for real this time, what heartbreak actually meant. I couldn’t curl into a ball beneath my desk. I couldn’t beat my forehead against the ground. I couldn’t scratch at the bricks of the ped-mall until my fingers bled. So instead I threw up.


9.      The first girl I was into used to hold bonfires on the banks of the Iowa River. She’d burn old wooden chairs with her roommate, and then write about the destruction and use the flame against the night sky as an image of the transitory nature of where we lived.


10.  Yeah, it’s a great town, a friend told me once, over the phone, after he had graduated and moved away and started his job as a photojournalist at a tiny paper in Michigan. But no one actually stays in Iowa City. No one actually lives there.


11.  I didn’t agree with him, although like all spaces holding too many fighting forces, I knew it would someday combust. If it didn’t change, that is. And we all pray each night to God that it will never change.


12.  The day after the 2016 election I was walking on the Pentacrest (accept not actually walking, of course) and ran into a guy in my fiction workshop. He was wearing a TRUMP - PENCE - 2016 shirt and was walking (actually) as if the sidewalk, the city, was his. Any other day and I would have given him a look to scare grizzlies.


13.  That last summer, we’d write something new on the picnic tables in the park on a weekly basis. Sometimes Sharpie, sometimes etched in with an unbent paperclip. The wood looked tough from the outside, but we never needed a knife.

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