My mother loved me enough to make me flesh. Bitch.
‘Nadia. Can it be…? My girl,’ she cried, squeezing hard.
Skin squished under hands. There was a hideous heat in my cheeks I carried to bed, school, then, work. Mother placed towels around women’s necks. I clutched a broom like someone who’d lost an arm. It wasn't easy, being a puppet in the body of a girl.
‘Nadia, be good and make Mrs Kulos coffee,’ Mother said.
People always wanted something. They couldn’t sort out their own roots. I looked out at the rain, people rushing towards coffee and buses. Why could they never stand still and open their mouths? I swept cropped curls into a huddle and nicked my thumb on foil coffee filters. Blood made my fingertips look like knots.
I was small for my age. 16 brought a spurt. Growth. Too fast. I couldn’t sand my chest, whittle myself free of bumps. Worse, no one oiled me to prevent every word getting under my skin. There was a boy who delivered pizza who wouldn’t look at me, then looked too much. He sprayed his lips on my face in red. I went out with him once, ‘I’ve got wood,’ he said in the park, moving my hand. It was not wood, but I let my hand stay. I listened to trees rustling overhead. I didn’t expect Mrs Kulos to walk by, but she did. When other boys started delivering pizza’s with immodest pepperoni designs, Mother grounded me.
‘I hate you,’ I yelled.
Mother looked at me, eyes sky before rain. I stormed to my room, missing slow sap, its dry yellow eye. I didn’t like the pizza boy much, or the one I saw after him, but the thought of him made my lips part like parched buds at dawn. I took a pencil sharpener, pushed the blade against my thumb and sighed. It reminded me of simpler times, being hugged by a vice, the puppet-maker carving his name onto my spine. Mother’s customers whispered now when I came into the shop. I wished I could chop off a leg and show them the rings right through me, ‘Special, special, special.’ I wanted everyone to see I was so much more than a girl, but there was nothing to see.
I lit a cigarette in my room and winced. Holding the orange tip to the quilt Mother made, I imagined scorching holes to the nipples of her favourite smocks, stealing her purse. I sucked on the spark of the cigarette in the dark. Mother made me fleshed out by love. I'd burn through it, do whatever it took to still this terrible pounding in my chest.