Filling the blank spaces

The fourth floor student lounge offers a beautiful view of Iowa City.

The fourth floor student lounge offers a beautiful view of Iowa City.

I keep thinking I should get a curtain for my kitchen window, something teal or maybe patterned like a picnic basket. I imagine light peeking through the folds of fabric. Maybe I’ll sew the curtain myself, I think, dreaming of spare time and the fancy Singer sewing machine I once used in middle school.

But I like watching the light shift from season to season, shadows softening in the fall. Already-orange leaves blow from the trees into my open windows, wedging their way between the glass and screen, as if they know they’ll soon enough dissolve in snow. It’s October, and I’ve officially started outlining everything I’ve learned in law school this first semester. There are wayward exceptions and clauses and cases that don’t fit into my bullet points yet.

There’s a certain grad school loneliness for which I want to insert a footnote, the kind of thing that doesn’t catch your attention right away, but hell, you know you’ll have to deal with it eventually. I find myself retreating to my carrel in the law library before, between and after classes, the hum of fluorescent lights and rustling papers my company in the maze.

It is funny how everything is so overwhelmingly new: the place, the people, the legal way of thinking. Yet I often find myself paralyzed as I sit down to write, wondering where to start, whether my feelings are headers, bullet points or footnotes. Or, perhaps, whether they dwell only in the blank spaces.

The law school is somewhat oddly designed, so light peers in at strange times: in a mosaic of square windows on the curved side of the library, sometimes from skylights and ever-too-brightly when I go down the stairs and open the back door to walk home. I squint as I make my way across the bridge, down the swirly ramp, toward my apartment, eyes adjusting after a day of classes and cold calls and a little too much quiet.

But the light, in all its unpredictability, in the changing shadow shapes it throws, reassures me that seasons are fleeting, that crunching leaves and turning pages and new friends’ laughter disrupt the quiet and fills the blank spaces.

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