It may have been my greatest adventure to date: going to Iowa. How does visiting a state known for its corn fields and wind turbines qualify as adventure? Well, because I went to see a man. A guy from Iowa, who was given the catchy name of Guyowa by my Seattle friends. Equipped with bright blue eyes and an attractive smile Guyowa had, in a matter of months, managed to occupy a great deal of space in my mind. We met in Peru, hiking our way towards Machu Pichu. We first kissed in Cusco, after he asked me to meet him by the fountain at Plaza de Armas. This kiss was also our goodbye; he flew back to his home in Iowa, I continued backpacking.
Of course we emailed. Emails turned into nights on Skype turned into dreams of seeing each other again. I had by now made my way to the States; why not take a detour through his hometown on route from Seattle to Denver (both set destinations)? After some nights of being sleepless in Seattle, fretting over the “to do or not to do” question, I did it: I booked a one-way ticket to Iowa. When I mentioned my upcoming trip to Seattleites they were surprisingly condescending about this state that most of them had never even visited. It made me all the more curious to see this place that supposedly was populated by fat country-people and offered nothing more than boring fields of corn.
Yes, I saw a lot of corn fields, and I saw fat people. But I also met some of the friendliest men and women I have encountered in the United States. I stayed in the city of Des Moines that, perhaps unexpectedly, has a lot to offer. Like a sculpture park that far exceeds the one in Seattle when it comes to fun and unpretentious sculptures, as well as an architecturally beautiful art center that exhibits some touching artworks. On my first weekend in Des Moines, the downtown sidewalks hosted an open-to-all art fair with a large variety of works displayed in tents; the following weekend these same streets hosted a (free) music festival with three stages to choose from. And about those corn fields: they look pretty darn beautiful in the orange light of a setting sun, the rolling hills dotted with silhouettes of wooden barns.
In Iowa people drive cars to the supermarket, to the gym, to the park. Each time Guyowa and I were in the car, the hit song Latch by Disclosure&Sam Smith came on and we’d turn it up loud. It became the soundtrack to my great adventure. Sam Smith sings “You lift my heart up when the rest of me is down. You enchant me even when you’re not around.” This certainly was true for our courtship over Skype. “If there are boundaries, I will try to knock them down. I’m latching on dear, now I know what I have found.” Thinking I had knocked down our boundary by flying out to Iowa, I soon discovered that there was a boundary stronger than the lack of sharing physical space. In our many hours on Skype we had formed an emotional connection. Finally together, lying on his bed, Guyowa told me he did not want me to leave. As these words floated into the air they quickly dropped to the ground; crashed under the weight of the realisation that I would, in fact, leave. And so he took his distance. He gave me his smile, his jokes, his touch, and sometimes his thoughts, but he did not give us the opportunity to get close.
It was the day when we said our goodbyes that drew us closer together than we had been in the previous nine days. His car drove me across the city one last time: I don’t remember if the radio played any music, I remember his hand holding mine and our eyes locking at each red light. On a grey concrete slab of parking lot, in front of a small flat-roofed office, a droning bus formed the back-drop to our final kiss. We both commented on the clichéd Hollywood love story décor. Of course, unlike in the movies, our story did not have the happy ending.
With our adventure come to an end, my email inbox now remained devoid of emails from Iowa. I allowed myself some days listening to Sam Smith’s acoustic version of Latch, which was better suited for melancholy wallowing in regret for what could have been, but wasn’t. Then one day I found myself in the kitchen dancing once more to Disclosure’s upbeat version of the song. “No regrets,” my dad always taught me. And there are none, since I was lucky enough to meet a truly wonderful man, his family and his state.