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An Iowa City Life: “5 A.M.” by Ben Evans

By Ben Evans

I’d like to introduce myself, but as it’s ten o’clock at night and I have to get up at five tomorrow morning, I’m not much in the mood.

People don’t understand me when I tell them that I get up every morning at 5:00 a.m. I think that they go into an acute state of shock after I say “I get up at five.” They don’t let me finish the sentence, but instead ask if they have heard me wrong. “Five in the morning?” As if five in the afternoon would be more acceptable. I nod my head as they explain how they could never do that or how I must have a really loud alarm. “I don’t use an alarm anymore,” I say. Now they just stare at me blankly, figure that I am full of shit, and move on to telling me about how they drank themselves to sleep last night and threw up all over the bathroom floor. Then they woke up at two in the afternoon. “It was great,” they would usually add. I roll my eyes.

On the first day of school, it is easy for me to get up. I can never get sleep. It’s like the people inside my head are all doing cocaine, but I don’t get to feel the high, no no, just the snakes in my veins as I lie there watching the ceiling fan circulate. The fan in my new apartment is quite sublime. It is a Hunter brand, which the landlady described as, “simply the best.” I have never heard of this brand, as my mother and father are air conditioner snobs, needing climate control rather than mere circulating air, so I took the woman’s seemingly professional opinion. She owned this property, I thought, she must know everything about it, like if Palm Beach Roofing Expert did the roofing because it looks awesome. I could care less at the time I was looking at my apartment; all I wanted were East-facing windows. It was late March in Iowa City, well past time to have a lease signed, much less be looking for an apartment. I would have settled for a spot under the bridge nearest to campus. I had actually considered approaching the man whose sign read, “Why lie? I need a beer,” to ask where I could find a cozy spot to sublease. He had probably been in this spot before, I assured myself, “And look at him and his clever entrepreneurial skills!” But I backed out, as he glared at me in my blue, skinny tie with the tiny birds on it, muttering something about a homosexual. So, I decided to go with the broom closet with the Hunter fan instead. It had a small east-facing window. And it was only $500 a month.

Last year had been a rough year of finding myself, neglecting my studies, and trying to get the girl of my dreams to fall back in love with me. Notice the word ‘back’ in that last sentence. It’s important. I quickly realized that finding myself including a lot of drinking and smoking, but as I am pretentious, I only smoked Lucky Strikes and drank high-end Scotch, an idea I picked up from the first season of Mad Men. It was easier than I had originally thought. Smoking became second nature, lighting up between every class, and drinking was just something to pass the time between cigarettes. It was cliché in every way, as I hunched in the back row of every class, dressed in my blue pea coat and brown-leather penny loafers. The fastest two weeks of my life. It could have been the hangover, or the girl in my philosophy class who, at eleven thirty in the morning, asked if I could walk home or if she needed to call me a cab, but the realization that I needed to resume my life hit me hard. I walked home to my dorm room, picked up the dirty, soiled clothes strung about the room, and went to the basement to do my laundry.

I couldn’t get to sleep that night either. The snakes in my veins were especially active. After two hours of sleep, I looked at my watch, which told me that it was around 5:00 am. I got out of bed and looked around the room. It was relatively clean and smelled more like pomade rather than a drunken hobo from the fifties. My hangover was almost gone, enough to realize that I, in fact, had a roommate. And I knew him. It was a daunting realization, as I could not believe I had spent the first two weeks of school drinking alone when I could have been drinking with him. I had to get out of the room, so I grabbed a book from the clutter that was supposed to be my desk, made some Twining’s tea, and found my way to the floor lounge.

The lounge was simple enough. It was deserted, nothing there but a few chairs and three large windows facing East. It was still dark outside, giving the room a dead feel, almost as if the entire building had been struck by a zombie apocalypse. This lead to the thought that I had not worked on my kung fu in a while, but feeling about to throw up, I sat down in one of the sunken in chairs facing the windows. I picked up my book, deciding to read instead of investigating to see if everyone in my building was dead, thinking that it would probably be more safe to wait until I brushed up on my fighting skills or had my collapsible police baton on my person. One page turned into ten, ten into thirty, thirty into sixty, until I noticed a light coming from one of the windows. I had never taken the time to enjoy a sunrise before in my life, never watched it from its soft birth to its reddish-orange adolescence. I watched it, all of it, the entire thing, mesmerized as the streets became alive with light and the lamps died out. In that short time, I felt alive. In that short time, I was okay. It was beautifully mediocre, enough to make me want to see it again the next day. And the day after that. Enough to make me pull myself out of bed every morning at 5:00 am, take a shower, read a book, do whatever. I did it this morning, looking out the East facing window of my broom closet. This is college life This is the stuff your parents don’t tell you when they ship you off. These are the beautiful things.

This is all a big way to say, “Hello, I’m going to be writing about this kind of stupid college stuff for a while, so I’d like to introduce myself.” This is a hand-shake and a cup of coffee. This is a small bit of my soul. I’m Benjamin Evans, but you can call me Ben. You see me on the street; you are behind me at the espresso bar; you have a class with me; I’m the guy sitting at the bar drinking a tonic and lime.

You are staring at the screen, figuring I’m full of shit. I’m rolling my eyes. We should get use to this. Nice to meet you.

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