10,000 Lakes

I have my best epiphanies in the land of ten thousand lakes which is also where Grace lives, sings soprano in choir and squints at dead bees doubled over under microscopes. Here, she forges friendships, runs with flushed cheeks through fresh snowfall, and frequents the sort of Speakeasy you find at the end of a dark damp alley. The apartment she shares with two younger twenty-somethings (also blonde) contains a small square television with two long crooked antennae. A red loveseat in the living room fits two thirds a full-sized person. Her roommates left out their paint-by-numbers kit again and a jigsaw puzzle lays pieced together half-assed on the coffee table. An eyesore of a shag rug wrinkles under the table and bike tracks criss-cross hardwood floors and rainbow Christmas lights make the whole place into a little disco. The space is smallish, scrapped together with found furniture. Grace thinks the best amenity is the clawfoot bathtub but to me, it’s Grace’s room which absorbs the most magical morning light. She wears a sleep mask.

In a few months, Grace will move from here but for now my Subaru’s parked around the corner with everything I own in it. Things toppled out as I retrieved my suitcase. Free street parking. We’re in Minneapolis, Uptown and I am moving home to balmy sun-soaked Los Angeles from Chicago but not before visiting my friend. In a few months, a hiring recruiter will ask me why I moved to Chicago “in the first place” and I’ll say after living in LA forever, I wanted something different. This is a phone interview I’ll take breathless in my car after work with less time to prepare than I thought I’d have. I’ll choke on a question and the guy will discourage me to go into sales. It feels like I’m always bursting into buildings or driving distant places just to see something new. This inability to stay in one place or be content with just right where I am implies a sort of flightiness, restlessness, or at its worst, fickleness. At best, it means I’m curious, like I’m constantly trying to drum up something to look forward to. Like I’m always in search of something illuminating, surreal and delightful, big or small.

Now Grace and I are biking, wheels spinning faster and faster down streets and past lakes named something Native American and quadrisyllabic. We are not wearing helmets. We smoked and we’re blasting Smino and we love this shit. We’re going to Nicollet Island or Riverview Café or Goodwill or Lake Minnehaha or wherever we want to go because we are young and together. Around each other, we can do and be whatever we want.

On a dock on Lake Hiawatha under a strawberry sky, we play Goldlink from my speaker and dance like our parents never knew how. Grace dips low with wobbly arms and jerks upward like an inflatable tube man. I keep it all in my hips and can’t predict what direction they’ll move in. We don’t care about onlookers because there are none here. Just the kayaks stacked bottoms-up and gleaming in this spectacularly pink hour. Fine filaments of cloud spray across the sky and the sun (where did it run to?) transforms the lakeside grass into sparkling crushed emeralds. I catch the reflection of lake houses on water and think of all we don’t own yet. They—them over there—have big wide windows. I have low-hung ceilings. Grace, a twin-sized mattress. 

With cold-stung ears, we weave through the city eternally directionless, ducking under curtains of green and letting chlorophyll flood our senses. The wind blasts against my knuckles. They crack from the cold. I lend Grace my scarf and zip my jacket up to my chin. 

We find a bridge and lean our bikes against a fat tree trunk. After silence, I ask Grace what she’s thinking about. “I’m looking at the outline of that building, about how usually all the time I’m worried about being productive and how I could probably stand to change that.” She asks me and I tell her I’m thinking about the poem “Westminster Bridge.” We read it on my phone and she looks up the way she does at the sky, searching. “Mornings, like mornings—really early morning when the light’s blue, it feels like anything’s possible. I dunno.” Then she wipes her nose with the back of her hand. The sun from this angle is almost too bright to look at.