The Damage

By Lisa Grande
 

Days after I snuck my cousin out the front door, 
the scissors were removed from the kitchen. 
She would need to see a professional, but at least 
I cut the bangs "straight enough." 
I gained confidence knowing my father would not notice 
the beauty shop set up in the center of the living room. 
Walking her home, I could not camouflage 
the ponytail clenched in my fist. I held it tight, afraid 
the pieces still bound together by a rubber band might 
spread like seed and fertilize the yard. 
All night, I waited for the phone call and when it came, 
I hid in the basement. School pictures were a reminder 
of the damage I'd done and in grocery stores, 
I could not avoid the story being retold to strangers. 
That's why tonight, after dinner, after we pulled 
the chair to the sink, I hesitated. Standing over your head 
with scissors in my hand, I carefully cut each dead end 
that landed soft on linoleum below.


"Solange Sketch"  By Michelle Carr Pencil, 9" x 11'

"Solange Sketch" 
By Michelle Carr

Pencil, 9" x 11'


Six

By Hailey Knisley


I once was an 8
Thrilled by a 2
Now claim a 6
But a woman told by who?

This waist needn't sized,
My toes shall go unnumbered,
Not rules, merely advice,
For a woman to fit in a smaller skirt,
Thighs too big,
Ass to small,
Please tell me why we do this all,
Because I can't fathom, I can't see,
Why we go mad,
And consider ourselves as endless debris,
What's the point, where do we start,
From the top of the bust?
Or the middle of the heart?

Measure my legs,
How long is my stride,
How many steps until the other side?
Your numbers are useless unless they can talk,
And my 30 something legs can sure as hell walk,
You're ruthless,
Your tape,
It strangles my waist,
How flat is my stomach when bearing a child,
How round is my belly after hatred for miles,
I struggle to find the reason for this,
A sickness that seems to bring everyone bliss,
"I've lost a whole pound!" she squeals in delight,
Hunger is all for dinner tonight,
Growl and moan because she wants more,
A quick gulp of air is all we afford,
The scale is my confidante, my lonely north star,
Help me seek it, when I forget who we are,
It tips in my favor every single time,
I grin as I become even more blind.


"Queen S.A. (Silver Ahnia)"  By Danielle Flowers Acrylic and dry water color paints on top of a pizza box. "This portrait is very special [to me]," Flowers said. "She isnt a 'real' person but she's a real energy that flow from me. The inner makings of me. There's a Queen that lives in all of us women. Same for men with Kings. She evokes emotion, passion and strength. Allow yourself to fall into her eyes. Allow her to speak to you.”

"Queen S.A. (Silver Ahnia)" 

By Danielle Flowers

Acrylic and dry water color paints on top of a pizza box.

"This portrait is very special [to me]," Flowers said. "She isnt a 'real' person but she's a real energy that flow from me. The inner makings of me. There's a Queen that lives in all of us women. Same for men with Kings. She evokes emotion, passion and strength. Allow yourself to fall into her eyes. Allow her to speak to you.”


I Woke and Though I Was Pregnant

By a sophomore anthropology student


          I woke up this morning thinking I was pregnant. I had a dream scientists implanted tissue from a uterus onto my abdominal wall. A woman, Derya Sert, received a transplant of tissue from the wall of a uterus, because she was born without a uterus and wished to conceive. The transplant happened in August 2011, and 18 months later they started a process identical to in-vitro fertilization. 
          Lately I've been feeling dysphoric. 
          I had dreamed I was receiving the treatment, and the egg had took. I had a baby bump. I was feeling hormonal. I was feeling a baby in me. I was feeding the baby. My family wasn't the most supportive, but they cared for the child. I walked in on my friend Drew giving her boyfriend, my friend Brandon, a blow job. I didn't stop walking. I had to tell them the news. They didn't act too crazy, but I think they were freaking out on the inside. They looked at each other as if they were saying, "Can you believe this? He's gone insane!" 
          I wanted this baby. 
          I still feel kind of pregnant. The feeling is still there, and I can't stop thinking about it. 
          When I woke up, I went to the bathroom and crouched down to take care of my laptop, and I immediately thought, "Fuck! The baby! I..." Then I remembered it was a dream, and snapped out of the dream's mindset. 
          All day I've been thinking about how I feel pregnant, and I don't know how to react to it. Over the summer, I cried a lot, and now I'm just feeling kind of weird and lost. It was such a realistic dream. How could I not be pregnant? 
          Last night, as I was taking a bath, I looked down at my genitals and saw my penis. It looked detachable. As though I could remove it and find a vagina underneath it. I've decided I would be happy with a vagina, but I don't know how I'd feel about people entering it. I'd probably like it, but I'd have to get used to it. 
          When I masturbate I press at the slight indentation above the shaft, as though I'm delving into myself. It's as if that is what's pleasuring me, instead of the actual penis. 
          I don't think I really want my penis anymore. 
          I'm okay with it existing, but it's not really something that is essential to my being. What's essential to my being is the possibility of a vagina underneath my penis. The possibility of twisting it and my testicles off and finding my vagina. 
          I realize I can't just twist it off, and that a few thousand dollars are necessary for me to finally find it, but I want it. I need it. 
          My penis isn't my penis, and I want it to be so bad. I want to get it pierced so that I can pin it to myself. I want to force my skin to the flesh underneath it. I want the flesh to become the underneath of my body. 
          Derya Sert is the prototype for the future me. Her transplant has laid a framework for me.


Drawing Strength

By Corissa Gay


9:23 am:

          Kara wakes up seven minutes before her alarm is set to go off, her eyes snapping open with a start. She's surprised to find that she managed to get any sleep at all; it's unsure to her when, exactly, she had stopped casting memories across the blank canvas of her ceiling long enough to fall into a peaceful slumber.

           Today is the first day she'll have to see him again. She doesn't know how she's going to smile—and not barf—when he touches her.

           It's been seven months and twelve days, and she's still not ready.

10:03 am:

          Rinsing out her hair, Kara gets stuck standing under the shower's abrasively warm spray, feeling the water glide over her skin. Part of her wants to embrace the feeling, imagine the power of the water causing the cells that he infected to erode. The other part, the larger part, remembers how he's ruined even the water for her.

           She remembers early that April morning, her entire family over for Easter, playing Marco Polo in the pool. She keeps convincing herself it's an accident, the way he brushes his fingers along her hip or the way his rough palm—grating compared to the familiar, gentle swoosh of the water—squeezes her thigh.

           A few tears come, unbidden, and Kara watches as they mix with the shower water—all of it swirling out of sight down the drain.

10:36 am:

          Dressed in jeans and an oversized sweatshirt, Kara bounds down the stairs, looking for breakfast. Her sister, Mandy, is already seated at the table, flipping through a magazine and crunching on granola. She's in a lavender sweater dress that compliments her skin tone, her hair loose around her face: straight as a pin. "You look like a schmuck," Mandy points out.

           Kara rolls her eyes. "Bite me," she grumbles.

           Her mom walks into the kitchen as Kara is scraping her scrambled eggs out of the pan and onto her plate. "Is that what you're wearing to the party?" her mom scowls.

           "I feel comfortable in this," Kara grunts, subconsciously wrapping her free arm around her midsection protectively. Her mom doesn't answer, but the disappointment is radiating off her, powerful waves of energy.

           Kara sits at the table, pushing the eggs around the plate, suddenly sure her stomach is going to cave in on itself.

11:50 am:

          "Kara, come on! We're going to be late!" Her mom calls up the stairs to her. Kara stares a little longer at the blank page of her journal—the same one she's been fixated on for an hour. She can't stop her hands from shaking long enough to write a single word. She can't do this.

           "I'll get her." Kara hears Mandy sigh gustily and then her feet are smacking their way up the stairs. "You know Aunt Becky hates when people are late." Mandy leans against the doorframe, her arms crossed. "We're going to miss decorating the tree if we don't leave now."

           "I don't feel well," Kara rasps. She meets Mandy's eye in earnest, praying for her to realize that something isn't right. For a second, there's a flicker of worry in Mandy's eyes. Then she puts on her stern face, so similar to their mother's.

           "Come on, Kara. We made a commitment. It would be rude to back out now. Plus, we haven't really seen the family since Easter. Don't you miss Aunt Becky or even Richie? I bet he has a bunch of stories about his summer over in England." Mandy smiles brightly, the fact that she's missed their older cousin a bunch written all over her face.

           Kara swallows, and her throat feels like it's been lined with cotton balls. She chooses not to answer her sister. Instead, she shoves her arms into her coat sleeves, grabs the book on her bedside table, swings her overnight bag across her chest, and pushes past Mandy. Already, she feels defeated by the day. She wishes she could squeeze her eyes shut and will time to fast forward till she's okay again.

           It's not that easy, though, and Kara is definitely not okay.

2:17 pm:

          They have about an hour left till they're even in the town where Aunt Becky and Uncle Carl live. Mandy really needs a bathroom break, though, and Kara could use coffee—even if it's cheap gas station coffee.

           As soon as their mom has the car in park, Mandy is rushing into the building. Kara trails behind at a slower pace, stopping in the bathroom, too, just in case. She carefully examines the layers and layers of marker that litter the stall she's in. In particular, the bold, dark strokes of the female gender symbol with a fist in the center of the circle catches Kara's eye. Intrigued, she snaps a picture of the art with her cell phone.

           Something about it makes her feel safer, less alone.

3:30 pm:

          Kara's mom parks in the street across from Aunt Becky's at 3:30 on the nose. Several familiar cars are parked in the driveway, and Kara easily spots Richie's Ford Explorer. Her skin crawls uncomfortably, and she gives the car a wide berth. She doesn't want to see the backseat. She can't think about what happened there.

           Oh, God, she is sweating, her hair sticking to the back of her neck.

           She can't do this.

           She can't do this.

           He didn't have the right to do this.

3:32 pm:

          Aunt Becky releases Kara from the comfortably tight hug, asking some question about how the swim team is doing, but she can't concentrate because he's suddenly there. Kara lets the sleeves of her sweater fall past her fingertips so nobody can see the violent tremors running through her hands.

           "K!" Richie exclaims, his face lighting up like she's the guiding beam of a lighthouse after several, tumultuous nights at sea. Only his eyes contain a hint of malice, sending her a clear warning.

           And then, suddenly, he's hugging her. His arms circle around her waist, and they've been in this position maybe a million times before, but it's never felt like a trap. Swallowing back the bile, Kara weakly let's her hands hover just above touching him, making it look like she's reciprocating the hug.

           She counts backward from five, and then it's over. Richie moves on to Mandy, and Kara is left to walk further into the spacious house, finding other family members to greet.

           Every hug feels like a fresh opening of her wounds.

4:07 pm:

           Everyone is unwrapping colorful, glass ornaments to dress the tree. Kara watches Mandy giggle and help Grandpa Wallace hang a gold ball on one of the branches closer to the ground. She feels warm for a moment.

           "Hey, Miss Sulky. Grab an ornament, join the party." Suddenly, Richie is standing next to her, dangling a homemade, clay, painted Santa in front of her nose. Kara's insides freeze instantly.

           "I'm happy observing." Kara hates the way her voice shakes a little.

           "Sure. You look thrilled. Come on, K, I know you too well. You can't lie to me." He grips her arm possessively. The thick sweater does not shield her from the ache his touch causes. She feels it deep in her stomach and in the soles of her feet.

           It's too much: the way his face gloats and mocks, the way he can touch her and get away with it, the way he's inside her.

4:11 pm:

          She heaves into the toilet again, though her stomach has already emptied itself completely. Every part of her is so focused on purging the un-purge-able, and she can't calm herself down. Her vision is blurry.

4:28 pm:

          Someone knocks on the bathroom door. "Occupied," Kara's voice has an edge of panic to it. 

          "I know, you've been in there for, like, twenty minutes," Mandy huffs. "What gives? Do you have the runs or something?"

           Kara pulls herself off the ground and glances in the mirror. Her hair is disheveled and her eyes are wild with anxiety. "That's gross." She accuses Mandy before turning on the faucet. Splashing water on her face does nothing to tame her appearance, though. Giving up, Kara opens the door of the bathroom, but she keeps her face cast downward.

           "Gotcha to open the door, though, didn't I?"

           "You're a real wizard when it comes to extracting sisters from bathrooms, yes." Kara grumbles, trying to make her escape.

           "Hey, are you okay?" Mandy manages to grab Kara's arm before she scampers off, but she's infinitely gentler than Richie and it makes Kara tremble. "I'm seriously asking." Her eyes bleed genuine concern, and Kara feels the cotton in her throat again. She isn't able to answer, so instead she shakes her head: no, she's not okay. Mandy let's her hand drop to Kara's, tugging her gently back into the bathroom. She closes the door softly behind them so they're alone in the tiny space.

           They are silent for a long time: Kara avoiding Mandy's searching gaze and Mandy slowly going back in her head, trying to remember when she first noticed Kara acting differently.

           She thinks it might have been around the beginning of May…around the last time they saw family. Ugly thoughts start to root themselves in Mandy's brain. She recalls watching Kara dart for the bathroom after having a conversation with their cousin.

           "Kara, did something happen between you and Richie?" Her face is scrunched with concentration.

           Without warning, Kara starts to sob. Real, heavy, chest-heaving sobs that seem to rip from her body painfully. All she can do is nod and fall to the floor, her body curling in on itself. Horrified and confused, Mandy follows Kara to the ground. She drapes her long, thin arm around Kara's shoulders and squeezes. "It's okay. I'm here. It's going to be okay." Mandy keeps whispering in Kara's ear, her voice low and soothing even though she doesn't know what kind of damage she's promising away.

           Even through her hysterics, Kara notes hopefully that the last time she broke like this—seven months and twelve days ago—nobody was there to comfort her. Her sister's strength really makes all the difference in helping Kara access her own.

1:45 pm, one year later:

          It took Kara a long time to convince her mother to let her get the tattoo. But she finally did, promising her mom that it would be fairly small and easy to cover.

           Kara settles into the black leather chair, gripping her design tightly in her fist. It's going to go on her left wrist—a bold, black female gender symbol with a clenched, powerful fist poised in the middle.

           She's hoping that every time she looks at it, the tattoo will remind her that it's perfectly normal to draw from other people's strength sometimes. Nobody is alone, so they shouldn't have to act like it.

           She's hoping it will remind her that she's been broken before, but—more importantly—that she didn't stay that way.