Cen­ter

The Iowa Review - - NEWS - Jen­nifer colville

Susan only half be­lieves she’s vis­it­ing the home of her newly mar­ried brother. She has a queasy, un­real feel­ing left over from the plane ride: New York to Los Angeles, non­stop, a feel­ing of dis­tances cov­ered too quickly. On the plane she’d stud­ied the back of the in-flight mag­a­zine—the states mapped out like dif­fer­ent re­gions of the brain, the flight tra­jec­to­ries swoop­ing and swirling elec­tric pulses. She’d been sur­prised at the num­ber of con­nec­tions lead­ing in and out of her child­hood home in Cedar Rapids. It didn’t help Susan’s sense of re­al­ity that the wed­ding, in her ex­pe­ri­ence, was still just an im­age on the in­vite. The card had shown blackand-white pho­tos of her brother and his fi­ancée pulling faces and kiss­ing. She’d found the dis­play of beauty and quirk­i­ness an­noy­ing. And her an­noy­ance made her feel like the bit­ter older sis­ter, so she’d taken the in­vite off the re­frig­er­a­tor where she’d placed it as a re­minder. She’d then lost the in­vi­ta­tion, ac­tu­ally. She’d some­how man­aged to sched­ule an im­por­tant part of her doc­toral ex­ams on the same day as the wed­ding.

Yet Susan now stands at her brother’s front door, in a pocket of shade amid the bright L.A. sun­light, on a porch with a swing and other con­vinc­ing re­al­is­tic de­tails like half-dead pan­sies in ter­ra­cotta pots. The door is cracked, and her brother, Alex, is rum­mag­ing around the car for the house keys he’s dropped be­tween the seats. Susan pushes the door open. She could call out to her brother, say, “Hey, it’s open,” but she’d rather be a spy. She’d rather check things out, make them her own. It hap­pens right away: In­side the front room is a fa­mil­iar slanted block of sun across a shaggy car­pet, and pothos, hang­ing plants with their trop­i­cal twin­ing leaves, like liv­ing wigs of long green hair. Here are the nubby cin­derblock walls, although one is now painted a yel­low ocher and seems to vi­brate as if preg­nant or alive. Susan is thirty-five, four years older than her brother, and she thinks, “No,” this is not his house, it’s hers, the one she in­hab­ited for that brief time without him, when she was the cen­ter of the uni­verse. Bub­bles of ro­man­ti­cally edited mem­ory form:

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