Flesh

by Alessandra Olivieri

     My sister spins herself a glittering cocoon while he does it. Retreats. She emerges the next dewy morning a dreamer, slow as a Sunday night, lily-livered, cowered over into a pale feather of skin in the bathtub. Calves like a glacier, splits herself down the middle, crackling. I say: you can’t let him take this from you. They all pull apart her ribcage with glossy red hands looking for a wishbone. She’s waterproofed, sealed shut in crystal silence. From her vantage point, we should see this as a twisted type of strength. Next time they’ll carve her name away from her along with her insides. Cobwebs grasp at the cracks in her porcelain skull. All that’s left is dial tones and smoke in scribbles, dishes stacked to heaven in dim kitchen lights. Despite myself, I forget her, startle at her frame penciled in on the corner of the couch. Why are all the lights off? She doesn’t answer. Now, she is a scattered pattern of noise and breath, weaker than an afterthought. She disintegrates into mist. She used to be a woman.

     I don’t want it to be that type of cliche, but my brain can only form so many chemical reactions. Anger blooms in my lungs. Knives and cans of poisonous aerosol learn the shape of the spaces between my fingers. In my pockets, I rehearse hissing gas and stabbing quick on trains and in public bathrooms. I crash. Darkness, breathing, everything shifting tectonically. Violence clouds my vision. Our mom jolts awake to screams, comes running in to chain me down with shaky arms. From the doorway, my sister watches and shines dainty pink like the underside of a seashell, her face almost finished reworking itself into something completely transparent. The ivory slash of her cheekbone glitches and her veins writhe below the surface. We talk like our mom isn’t unraveling into blood and water on the carpet. My sister says: you will never ever be the same, so stop trying. I say: you’re enough of a victim for both of us. I go to support groups and spit everything I can’t name into the cheap center of the basement. It flutters – desperate for a home – between the rattling bodies until it finds mine. Gasping, it soars right back into me without a second thought. Everybody in the circle has it worse and nobody is allowed to touch me. I was never anything but this.

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