The Sunday Rumpus Essay: The Kickback


“Stay still and don’t make a sound and I won’t have to use my knife.”

The blue vinyl beneath me is slick with my sweat but I don’t notice. Instead, I focus on inhaling and exhaling. The overalled man on top of me raises his body ever so slightly. I breathe in sharply, bridge my hips simultaneously up and to the side with all of my power, heaving the man away from me. I pummel his helmeted and padded head with the heel of my foot in an axe kick. He taps the side of his helmet, telling the other instructor he’s knocked out. I get the ever-assuring piercing whistle from my instructor, followed by the usual cheers and clapping from my classmates. The world rushes back into my arms and legs. I remember where I am.

I’m in self-defense class, where, under the grip of adrenaline, I forget that what I’m doing is practice. I forget that I’m completely safe here on these blue mats. I grapple with men who have volunteered to don head-to-toe padding, as well as extra-protective beekeeper-like headgear, to get the bejesus kicked out of them in the name of helping people like me.

I am here to come to terms with many things at once: jerks who come on too strong in a bar; assholes who try to intimidate their employees or coworkers to get ahead; cowards who hit their girlfriends or wives. Most immediately, though, I am dealing with my own attacker, a broad, baby-faced guy who held my arms down in the driver’s seat of my car while I bucked in my seat-belt. Funny that’s what I think about now, how young he looked. Maybe he was trying to carry out some kind of gang initiation, I say to friends, telling them how it seemed like he had collaborators. I noticed him getting into the passenger side of an idling truck across the street after slumping out of my car, probably too impatient to continue assaulting someone who was fighting back. Now in my classes, as I did that night, I fight loudly and messily and like there’s no tomorrow.


What’s the best way to process violence? How do you face not only something horrifying like a random assault, but also dozens of moments of unspoken discomfort and downright dread in the presence of men? When I started self-defense classes, my mom said, “I would think after experiencing something violent you would want to stay as far away from that as possible.” I tried to explain to her that the classes felt like the only place I could let the trauma go. Every place else it seemed like people saw me as morbid and overly dramatic; in self-defense class everyone was that way.

When I graduate from the first round of classes, I invite only my sister to watch me fight and earn my “Basics” certificate. By the time I graduate from the “Defense Against the Armed Assailant” class (better known to students as “Weapons class”) a year later, I have several friends sitting in the audience as I beat up “assailants” and take away their guns, knives, and clubs. One of those audience members is Jack, the guy I’m dating.

After the graduation ceremony and requisite post-ceremony cupcakes, Jack drives us back to his place. It’s early dusk on the day before Labor Day and a hazy, periwinkle light is settling over the city. Traffic is sparser than usual and the world feels about as quiet and serene as it ever does in Los Angeles. Now that I have proven to myself, my teachers, and classmates that I can defend myself against someone with a weapon should the need ever arise, I feel a pleasant heaviness working its way out to my limbs, like the feeling of being buried in sand on a warm day at the beach. I feel like all physical exertion has been wrung out of me and I don’t want to move anymore. I squeeze Jack’s shoulder as he drives, and he reaches over and grabs my leg.

Jack is a visual artist; we met at his art opening. When my friend and I walked into the gallery that night, my first impression of Jack was that he was a real Dude. Only a little taller than me, he had salt-and-pepper hair and his face was both boyish and weathered-looking. His smile was earnest but his eyes flashed with irony. He spoke in a thick Southern dialect. He was wearing jeans and a T-shirt to his own opening. He looked like someone who sweats hard and never wears a tie.

His work on the walls that night revealed an introspection and sensitivity. A series of lithographs of plastic bags containing marijuana “shake” lined one wall. Another wall held silkscreens of toothbrushes and shaving razors. A third series showed photographs of prescription pill boxes that had been altered to look like pop-art. The work had both a precision and an otherworldly quality. It reminded me of pop songs that have pretty melodies and sad lyrics.

I told Jack the work was beautiful and asked how he made it. He explained a complicated photographic process and then said something insightful about the way our culture pushes drugs on us, noting that he recently went off all his prescriptions. I looked at the pill boxes on the wall again; the process Jack was using made the pictures grainy, dreamy-looking. I wanted to flush the newly refilled tube of Zoloft in my purse and climb into the pictures.

The gallery opening was small. Less than an hour after I arrived, it was winding down. People decided to head to a bar down the street and there, despite our deep conversation about happy pills at the gallery, Jack hung back as his friend Mike hit on me in ways both generic and unsubtle. Mike asked if I wanted a drink. “Umm… Sure, I guess. Will you get me – “

“Off?” he inserted without missing a beat.

Ugh, I thought. I wished I were someone who could think up something fittingly rude to say back to him. It’s much easier to learn how to deliver a knee to the groin than a harsh comeback line to someone being sleazy. I will probably never be great at putting people in their places when they deserve a good shooting down.

Jack never started conversation with me the rest of the evening; later he told me he didn’t want to compete with Mike – a relentless player, who was “doing Mike’s thing” with me. As I was leaving the bar I turned to Jack and said, “Nice meeting you. I’d love to show your work at one of my Salon shows sometime.” He was gracious and we exchanged cards. I figured that was the beginning and the end of it.

It wasn’t. Jack emailed to ask me out and a week later we were sitting outside at an Asian-themed rooftop bar on one of the downtown skyscrapers, drinking some lychee/vodka concoction and eating sushi. The conversation moved along mildly at the beginning of the evening, mostly revolving around our art school experiences and how we were each balancing our artistic work with the rest of the life; Jack was a photography teacher, I was writing grant proposals for an orchestra. At some point we started talking about exercise; apparently Jack had recently lost a bunch of weight. I told him that in addition to swimming and hiking I had been studying self-defense. My talking about the “Defense Against Weapons” class I’d be starting in a few months led to him talking about his upbringing in eastern Tennessee, which was filled with a fair share of hunting and target-shooting. And then, pow! He came out with, “Holding a gun kind of begs you to point it at your head and pull the trigger.”

“Uhhhh…” was all I could say.

“You know – like the feeling you get standing on the edge of a really big cliff – like the space below is pulling you off the edge?”

Oh. Wow. Yeah, I know that feeling. I nodded. “Holding a gun feels like that?” Part of me thought I should be scared, but in my head Jack just went from slightly scary to really intriguing.

“Yeah, a bit. Guns are a kick.” There was an alluring thing in his voice. Maybe it was the matter-of-factness, the I’m-not-going-to-sugar-coat-anything-for-you, mixed with his Bible belt cadence. He sounded gentler than his words. “They have an ego.”

“An ego?”

“Yeah. They demand attention. Shooting is exhilarating – that inherent destructive power…”

He trailed off, maybe sensing my comfort level was doing a little back-and-forth sashay. Even a year earlier I probably would have dismissed both this conversation and the guy himself, shut down any attraction I felt. Now I felt more than a little interested. I thought about the words uttered by a teaching mentor when I told her about the assault: “You’re a warrior now.” The word “warrior” still rolled around in my head like a greased marble I couldn’t pick up. I had never been drawn to the idea of soldiers and heroes. But I also recognized something in the word now; for the past year I had been voluntarily fighting. I had been voluntarily confronting nightmarish scenarios.

For the rest of happy hour Jack and I talked more about death and violence and suicide and, because he guessed and asked about it after my mention of self-defense class, I mentioned my assault.

“How long ago was that?”

“Fourteen months.”

At the end of the evening, Jack walked me up the hill to my car, and I already knew I wanted to see him again. Guns, assaults, and suicide were already covered on the first date, so naturally on the second date we went for a ride on his motorcycle. He picked me up and we did the standard, scenic ride around the canyons in Malibu on one of those amazing days at the end of May that starts foggy and chilly, gets warm and sunny, and returns to clouds by late afternoon. I didn’t have gloves for the ride, and since my arms were already wrapped around him as I sat on the back of the bike, I kept my hands warm by sticking them into his jacket pockets. It felt both natural and peculiar. Thrilling. This was the first moment I knew we would wind up having sex. 


 Since the assault, so much of the world feels odd. It’s too big. Randomness existed in things before, surely; there were always bad things happening to good people. But now the world just feels nonsensical, like everything is happening upside down and in Sanskrit. Sometimes it seems hilarious. When we were kids, my brother and I used to play “Non-sequitur.” This involved trying to throw the other person off by coming up with the most out-there thing to follow the other person’s previous most out-there statement. But this is real life and I have a feeling I’m not supposed to be speaking in non-sequiturs. Nevertheless, post-assault I think the answer to every question is, “I was attacked,” even when I don’t want to tell people anything about it. Everything circles back to self-defense, even when it doesn’t.

And all I see, everywhere, are people in denial – normal, relatively happy, well-adjusted people who are in complete denial that bad stuff can happen anywhere at anytime. I feel sorry for them. And I want to shake them. I want to be like some version of Martin Brice – Robert Redford’s character in the hacker movie Sneakers – whose job is breaking into banks to show the banks where their security systems are weak. I want everyone to know how unaware they are. I want to go up to strangers on the street and fake-assault them to show them that it can happen. I want everyone else to know, as I do, that self-defense classes are a sad necessity of life. I want everyone else to feel the mistrust in the world that I feel.

I start reading everything about violent crime I can digest. I am struck in all of my reading by the idea that even the most murderous criminals are not so different from me. It’s both unnerving and bizarrely wonderful to think this way. Amongst the books I read is a memoir by a man who spent several years as a bank robber after enduring an abusive father for years of his childhood. The author explains that, in robbing banks, he wanted to wake people up in some way: “I wanted people who otherwise felt safe in life to feel the stinging fear and shameful helplessness that I had felt.” That sentence haunts me; despite how different our lives are, I feel I could have written whole paragraphs of his book. And I find myself – in a post-having-experienced-it-firsthand world – both repulsed by and drawn to the violence.

The repulsion I understand.

The “drawn-to” feels more complex.

As the weeks go by and Jack and I have lots of sex, I tell him more about the attack. I don’t rehash the whole thing, but he knows it was in my car, near downtown LA. I tell him that the attacker didn’t speak to me at all before it happened except to shout, “Hey!” as he ran up to the car. I tell him that several friends whose company I’d left moments before came to my aid after I escaped, and they called 911, and there was an open case and an investigator for a short time, based on fingerprints retrieved from the car’s window. Also as the weeks go by and Jack and I have lots of sex, I notice that the sex is the most intense of my life. It’s like the moment dogs are released from the starting gate at the races. All the time. All he has to do is glance at me a certain way and I feel like I’m about to splinter into dozens of pieces.

I fantasize about him as one of the mock assailants in class: he comes up behind me and wrestles me to the ground. He’s silent as we wrestle and I’m shouting something in-between protest and frenzy. On the ground he breathes heavily into my ear, sometimes saying clear words, explaining what he’s going to do to me, sometimes chanting nonsense like some Harry Potter character whispering a spell, all while sitting on my legs and holding my arms down. One day while we’re IM’ing, I write that I have new red welts on my chest from fighting with (fake) rubber knives in class. He writes, “Hard core bitch…. I so know you could kick my ass…. but then I can always just whisper something nasty in your ear and be in total control… with or without a rubber knife.” My whole body feels like it’s starting to dissolve into the mattress. But then for a split second my brain focuses on the “knife” part and the momentum wanes. Jack quickly builds it back up by getting me away from semantics, typing “I was saying I could subdue you without violence or the threat of it.” And that’s true. It feels so good to relinquish control with him. I know that it’s me choosing to let go and not him overpowering me. His roughness lets me stop being rough on myself, about anything. And his ability to be vulnerable with me lets me gradually unveil myself to him.

While brushing my teeth in Jack’s bathroom, I wonder aloud why I have not experienced this level of physical intensity until now. I wonder if this is happening because I’m now in my mid-thirties, as if the degree of hotness is some kind of welcoming committee to my sexual prime. I know the chemistry between us is the result of several things. For one, our relationship is new and exciting the whole time; we never get out of that “honeymoon” phase because the whole thing lasts less than a year. Also, he’s a little older than me and more aware than many guys I’ve been with. There’s also a rebound factor for him, as he just ended a long relationship. And I probably can’t discount the fact that we seem compatible in ways beyond sex. We have similar sensibilities. We speak similar languages.

But I think there’s something else, too. I think my sex life is benefitting from my assault – and the resulting self-defense classes. I’ve already experienced the nightmare and am emerging with my arms up and my voice clear. I’m much less freaked out by physical intimacy.

I was a “late bloomer.” My childhood best friend, on the other hand, was not. When we were thirteen she looked eighteen. I looked ten. Our adolescence began post-AIDS and pre-world wide web, so even without my somewhat strict, non-expressive upbringing, my sex education in school was filled with scary statistics and no easy resource for me to check things out on my own. I had Our Bodies, Ourselves, which answered certain things but felt, to a thirteen-year-old in the late ‘80s, old-fashioned. If I hadn’t had older cousins I don’t know where I would have gone with questions. Sex was a dark, cyclonish thing swirling way above my head. Much of what I think about when I recall sexual initiation are not my own experiences but my best friend’s. Her one-night-stands with grown men and her repeated date-rapes were things I lived through too. She lived the other side of my quiet inexperience. And for years I turned away from sex.

I wondered whether I was just not a very physical person. I wish I’d realized the truth sooner: I have always expressed myself physically. Playing music and sports were huge parts of my childhood. I wrestled and played karate with my younger brother and older cousins. I was always a hugger. I’m a kinesthetic learner and don’t learn something well until I physically do it. Whenever I get too caught up my head, things go wrong. The best thing for me to do, pretty much in any given situation, is to stop thinking and start doing. But throughout high school and into college as I watched my best friend experience PTSD and panic attacks, I made my boyfriends wait and wait and wait to have sex.

Living in New York right after college is when I started to understand the bigness of physicality. I went to my first kickboxing class (albeit a purely aerobic one) and from there I joined a real dojo where I could hit punching bags and even people – though as I learned in my self-defense classes after the assault, those kickboxing classes were not practical for real self-defense because they involved “pulling” punches and getting to wear wrist guards and gloves to protect wrists and knuckles. I relished the feeling of hitting and kicking, but it felt better to hit bags than people; I loved putting all my weight into a kick and hearing the smack of my foot on the vinyl heavy bag.

It was also in New York that I first slept with someone I was really attracted to. I became more open and experimental about sex. But when I moved to Los Angeles at age 27, I had still only slept with a few people and had never had an orgasm in anyone else’s presence. For whatever reason it wasn’t until I was with Jack that I totally let go. I never told Jack that, though it was often on the tip of my tongue in conversations.

With Jack, nothing is quiet. I never fantasize about sex as a gentle thing anymore. It’s dirty and precarious no matter the scene. And it’s more important; everything is now. Even with trust attached, even while I know Jack will make sure I am okay before, during, and after throwing me around his bed, the tightrope I’m walking feels sky-high. Jack whispers something and the words become objects, traveling all the way through me and gaining speed as they pass each part of my body, until the message has made its rounds and everything is humming. Or shouting. It’s the moment Dorothy steps into Oz, into that hyper-real color.

We date for almost three months before I start Defense Against Weapons class. Jack is really athletic. He’s not tall, but he’s a stocky guy, and very muscular. I feel really safe when he’s holding me, not simply for the feeling of being shielded by him – a feeling I’ve never gotten from a man – but because I know that despite his strength, I could knock him out if I had to. We talk about that fact and it’s like foreplay, me explaining how I could take him out. He asks me to show him techniques I’ve learned in class. I show him the non-devastating moves, the ones used to dissuade someone in a familiar situation rather than the ones you use to hurt someone for real. Then I show him the black and blue marks near my clavicle and explain they come from a scenario where an assailant holds a knife to my throat and I have to clutch the assailant’s hands (and knife) to my chest really, really hard as I knee the guy in the groin before disarming him. The bruises come just from that clutch.

I explain how alert I’ve become in the outside world. I think about scenarios and logistics all the time: how fast can I run? How many people are there on the street right now? What time do the stores in my neighborhood close for the day? I know how I would get out of an attack in an elevator (we block off a cube of space to practice elevator fighting); I know the choreography to start with if someone grabs me from behind or grabs my hair and tries to pull me into a car. The phrase “attack the attacker” occurs to me as I pass man after man on the street. And I think a lot about the fact that I already successfully fought someone off in a real-life situation, without the training I’ve now had. I know I have it in me to kill another person if I need to. That realization is nothing less than groundbreaking. And although I think about it often, I know that in an attack situation, I wouldn’t think. I would just do. That’s the point of adrenaline-state training.

“Adrenaline-state” training happens in progressively realistic, adrenaline-raising scenarios: first just physical moves, like a dance, detached from fighting; then faster; then preceded by “sharking” – where the guy circles you and you pivot to face him with your arms up; then adding dialogue with the “attacker”; and finally, the whole sequence stacked, faster and faster, over and over. Training like this, while your adrenaline is so high, builds muscle memory and shortens freeze time in fight-or-flight. You can never eliminate that freeze-time (thanks to our biology) but you can shorten it a lot. Someday maybe I will be the type who can think fast enough to shoot down some sleazy remark.

Fighting strategies in our training are often counterintuitive; you want to get in there as close as possible to the assailant so you can do damage while staying away from the end of the guy’s fist. When there’s a weapon, you wrap yourself around the brandishing arm and heave your knee fast and hard into the groin, staying away from the knife’s blade or the gun’s muzzle. There’s a good thing about guns: they’re unidirectional. This makes them less scary than knives and clubs, which can hurt you from all angles. I learn that it’s not the first, but maybe the fourth or fifth knife slash to the stomach that kills you. Odd reassurances are still reassurances. When there isn’t a weapon there are of course more fighting options. Either way – move fast, surprise the hell out of the guy, use leverage over strength, and knock him out.

The first time I take the “Basics” course shortly after the attack, I am a tangle of emotions: on one hand, angry and contentious, on another, distrustful and uncertain. On our third day of class I watch our instructor demonstrate a “Reversal” (the name we call practice rape scenarios). I try to stay present as the male instructor (the “mugger”) mounts my teacher as she “sleeps” on the athletic mats on the ground, shaking her “awake” and talking to her roughly to intimidate her into shutting up and staying still. My chest tightens and the feeling makes its way up to my throat. I want to leave. Right now. I want to walk out and go watch DVDs of Arrested Development with my friend Tom, who has been bringing them over on a regular basis along with a six-pack.

But instead of leaving class, I wait my turn and I fight. This first time, I am being cued by my teacher on each step: “OK Jess, lie the way you sleep…. OK, when he gets on top of you, tell yourself you’re awake…. OK, yeah, just keep going along with him. Just breathe, he’s going to make a mistake. When he does you’re going to go 110%.”

A couple weeks later there are no more cues. Dennis (whose mugger name is “Brad”) startles me by slamming his fist against the mat next to me yelling, “Hey!” much like my real-life assailant who yelled “Hey!” and banged his palm on the car window before opening the door and getting in on top of me.

“Brad” says, “If you make one sound it will be the last sound you ever make,” but I barely hear him now. It’s amazing how quickly you can tune out people’s words if you focus on doing so. But it’s a hard fight. The “muggers” have been fighting progressively dirtier, more realistic as the weeks pass. “Brad” grabs my ponytail and we go down to the ground to fight (a better place to fight anyway because then you can’t be thrown to the ground and injured, but you yourself can do a lot of damage from there). He grabs one of my sneakers and pulls it off before I, flailing and forgetting to breathe, manage to bring the heel of my foot down on his (helmeted) face. Then as I am about to be “in the clear” an “assailant friend” comes to get me and I have to fight him off. When both muggers are lying still on the mats, and I am panting from the struggle, my teacher blows the whistle signaling the fight is over. As I am about to return to the line of students on the edge of the mats, the lead instructor says, “That is the hardest fight you will ever have. In here or out there.”

I used to hate watching women get attacked on TV and in movies because I would feel the out-of-control feeling of the victim. Now watching those kinds of scenes is even more torturous because I feel more in-control myself, but can’t do anything to help the woman on screen. I have an involuntary physical reaction now, watching violence. Like a new mother whose milk comes down at the sound of any baby crying – when I watch any character get stalked or grabbed or hit, my body tenses and I start envisioning the moves I’ve learned. If the woman getting attacked on screen isn’t fighting back (which, sadly, is the case about 98% of the time) I shout at the screen, telling her what to do: Drop to the ground! Kick his groin! Go for the eyes! She almost never listens.

Jack was right when he guessed I’d really like shooting guns. That I would enjoy the inherent power. He said people either love it or hate it, but “you’ll probably love it.”

“Why do you think so?”

“Because…. you’re fun. You get really in to things. You have a zest for life.”

It was the first moment I remember where I didn’t have a negative knee-jerk reaction to guns. The day my weapons class finally goes to the shooting range, I sit in a classroom watching the instructor demonstrate how to load and handle the different types of handguns. I feel simultaneously nervous and safe. I think about Jack, how he makes me feel both flustered and soothed at the same time. I love his sly humor, his lolling articulation, his gravelly voice. I love how when I walk into his studio on a Friday evening after work, he already has a bottle of wine open and I can hear Jimmy Cliff wafting through the gate, and smell Nag Champa before I even knock. He grabs me and starts swaying to the reggae and two seconds later we’re naked. I love how much ease I feel being naked around him – I walk to the bathroom without a sheet wrapped around me and feel relaxed. I love his particular mix of sarcasm and sweetness, that we can laugh at the other without getting reactive. We’re both such emotional people that this part seems essential.

At the firing range, the instructor leads us out of the classroom where he has explained the rules and shown us the guns, and we walk into the lobby of the range. He hands us each a pair of headphones. I immediately feel like I’m about to enter some weird kind of library. Then we walk through the semi-sound-proofed doors and into the caustic smell of gunpowder and the library feeling disappears. Instead it feels like a bowling alley. We’re in a long and narrow corridor where we can stand and shoot into a much wider area. It’s hard to tell what the material of the wall at the other end is made from (it seems spongy the way it catches the bullets), but running from that back wall to us are lines – like motorized clotheslines – to hang the target, which is a simple piece of paper we’ve been given with the outline of a person and concentric circles drawn on the body in order to rate aim. I hang my paper person up and flick the switch that makes it sail away from me. It sails fast, 5, 10, 20 feet.

We shoot a Glock 9 mm and a .38 revolver. The revolver is the more difficult, perhaps mostly because the space to stick your fingers in and pull the trigger was made for someone with child-size hands and the kickback feels like huge pop rocks exploding in your palm. It hurts to shoot. But it feels more James Bond than the Glock and as I take aim I realize that I, who always hated paint guns and shooting video games, am having fun shooting an actual firearm.

I text Jack after I leave the range, amped-up and needing an outlet for the energy, needing to not think about targets and punchy kickbacks. He texts me back: Come over at 10. Panties optional.” Whatever else I can say about Jack, he sure could get me out of my head with just a text.


When Jack and I broke up, it took us a couple tries and several months to end it; there were tears, muddled emails of attempted explanation, talks of platonic friendship, post-breakup sex. I know our reasons for ending things were good – I was rapidly falling in love with him and he was not done climbing out of depression from his not-yet-finalized divorce – but sometimes I still wish he’d call me up on some hot sunny day and say something filthy in his Tennessee drawl.

I still bring up memories of us in bed at night. When I have close-to-sleep flashbacks – reliving the assault in more and less direct scenarios – I consciously bring up Jack’s face, hear his breath, smell his sweat to quiet my mind. I dream about swimming in the ocean, struggling against choppy waves, then realize it’s actually my attacker. His face is shadowy now and my mind jumps around from the attacker to Jack, to other men, back to the attacker. Sometimes there’s a sense of pulling free and swimming out beyond the break in the waves; other times there’s a sense of sinking. I’ll see myself struggling and kicking in my car, then Jack tying my hands behind my back with a belt.

I know that I’ll continue to judge random men on the street unfairly. That I’ll have rushes of fear and rushes of anger directed toward men as a group. That I’ll scramble to lock the door after getting into my car. But I also know sexual assault is not about sex, and that no one can take the beauty of sex away from me. Before the assault I’m not sure I knew that. The freedom I feel now feels wider, more realistic. It embraces my own capacity for violence and embracing that darkness makes me feel lighter. Being with Jack, whose light and dark sides were both so visible, helped bring me back down to earth, reminded me I am a physical person, a sensual person, and someone whose voice can carry. The hesitant teenage me would be horrified to read my fantasies now. Thank god.

Studying self-defense didn’t quite reduce the helter-skelter feeling of the world, but it made me care less about trying to gather it all in a bundle and tie it together. It made me feel physically and mentally powerful. It made me trust my instincts. I’ll always be coming to terms with how much in life is beyond our control. I will never ever forget for one moment that bad things can happen anywhere, anytime. And that feels like the biggest loss – a loss of a feeling of safety in the world. But by putting myself in scary scenarios over and over and then fighting my way out of them, I have started to trust myself and thus others a little more. Whatever else, I wouldn’t trade this feeling of being present and free in my body – this feeling of bursting out of a sand-mummy on the beach and running full speed into the surf.


Original art by Nicole J. Michaud: 1) “Eight,” 2) “Foreword,” 3) “Thirteen,” 4) “Coast” 5) “January Tide”.

Jessie Rothwell is a writer and musician. She also sometimes curates living room concerts and has worked as music supervisor for several episodes of Radiotopia’s Strangers.You can find her reflections on music on Minnesota Public Radio’s Classical blog. More from this author →