She learns shame when she’s a first grader. She learns hunger later on. And hate, she learns that in plenty. The way her thighs rub against each other, the soft roundness of her body. So she starts drawing stick figures. Two legs, two arms, one torso, one head. Strong, opinionated lines on the back of her hand. Her forearm. Her desk. Fences. Tree trunks. Notebooks. Her forearm again. She marks her territory, one line at a time. Pencils and fingernails and knives, anything she can get her hands on. And it’s always two legs, two arms, one torso, one head and she gets the hang of it quickly as if her body had known all along what shape it’s supposed to be.
Her heads are never quite right, more square than circle, but the Girl hopes it’s OK (she is, after all, more circle than line herself and sometimes she dreams of perfect bodies with disgusting slabs of flesh for heads). Her lines are never straight. They start and end perfectly but it’s the middles that give her headaches. The way her hand rips through paper. The way ribs bend at right angles. The way shoulders hunch. Necks bow down. Teeth crook. Sometimes she forgets to add an arm or two. Sometimes she adds more. Her heads are squares, her limbs are lines and soon drawing starts to feel like trying to fit her head inside her body. Her paper is crumpled.
She learns to hate art. Not her scribbled sticks but real art. She learns how to spit that word out as fast as she can, teeth bared and breath hitched in her throat because it burns and stings and if she grabs the chapped edges of her lips she can almost flay herself in one go. Real is an ugly word that claws its way through synapsesinewbonesmarrowmusclefat - this word she spits as well; on all fours, down the drain - right along beautiful. Next to woman. Next to yesterday’s lunch. She rages against the realness of her body, she rages against lines and circles, she rages against perfect pairs of twos and heads that are bigger on the inside than on the outside, she rages against vast expanses of white she has to fill with black.
She learns to hate her Mother. She hates the way Mother can call her a circle and gush about Rubens in the same breath. She hates the thought of her womb; in her mind, Mother’s legs are always spread. Her womb is filthy. The semen sticks to it and never lets go so Mother’s womb is filled with the rotten meat of the unborn, their skeletons bent at right angles.
She learns to hate her Sister. She hates the way Sister knows what shape to be and how she doesn’t have to fill herself black to exist. She hates the fact that sister is not really a stick figure, not exactly. Sister isn’t wrong and dirty like Mother and the Girl are. Sister is the paper. And on occasion, when she’s in particularly good mood, she hates that Sister knows how to love.
She learns to hate love in the back of a car, with broken springs ripping tiny stigmata in the small of her back. It’s dark. Boy lights himself a cigarette. The tip glows comically in the dark, the sting ripples pleasantly across her synapsesinewbonesmarrowmusclefat. Boy swears. Except that he stopped being Boy a couple of minutes ago, about the same time she stopped being Girl. This is Man that’s straddling her hips with limbs of words and semen. Maybe this is Mother’s He and the thought is unpleasant enough that her skin begins to crawl away from her, stigmata and stick people and burns and all, so she is suddenly standing naked in front of Man as His hands unmake her and build her back again in the shape He sees fit. He makes her Whore of His angled ribs, of Babylon, of Mankind. His hands are rough. They break her down so Whore begins to hate Lover, for His touch fills her lungs with cigarette ash and blisters. Lover’s love is salty. Like Mother’s womb.
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