My sister tells me that she only eats cheese twice a year and that she’s already reached her quota for 2012. She drinks a non-fat no foam sugar free vanilla latte and eats an omelet made of eggs without their yolks and when she pulls her sleeves up to her elbows inside the restaurant because the heat is on too high, I watch the points of her bones jut against her skin and I try hard not to wince or look her in the eye.
I sit in class and the professor, who wears an asymmetrical vest over a long underwear top with tiny flowers, says, above the clacking of her bracelets, that you cannot subvert the body, and I think, oh honey, where in hell were you brought up.
With my sister, I order a bacon cheeseburger and French fries even though I know afterwards I might be sick. I bite big into the meat and cheese and watch her watch me. I smile and wait a second before I wipe the ketchup from my mouth.
The professor is not wearing a bra today and I want to take her aside and ask her if her mom would like to meet my mom. The body, she is already saying, even though class has just started and some of us are still shuffling through our bags. And I stare at her nipples through the thin pale blue of her t-shirt and wonder if she’d let me cup them through the cotton, just to feel the weight of free.
My sister tells me that she doesn’t understand why I won’t talk to our parents. She says I’m hurting them; they love me. She says mom cries when she talks about it and I look at her long and she says, okay, mom doesn’t cry, but you know feelings aren’t her thing.
We are reading a book about women giving birth at home. The professor gave birth to both her children in her cottage upstate with her partner (no gender given) a midwife and a doula, and she says there is a dialogue of fear happening in the medical community that forces women to hate the things that make them who they are. In the book we read, the women said they were rabid rabid against anyone who subjected their unborn to a hospital’s version of an entrance to the world.
I order blueberry pie a la mode and I’m a little bit in love with our waitress, who is short and round and wears a stormtrooper’s t-shirt and men’s jeans.
I have not spoken the entire semester, but I raise my hand though this is not the sort of class in which you raise your hand. My other hand rests on my stomach, which holds the five-month-old fetus that no one knows about but me. Fuck them all though, I say, once everyone is looking. And though this is not something I would usually say out loud I like the sound of it and I keep talking. I sit up straight. They’re all just doing the same thing, I say, telling us what to do, making us even more afraid.
For four years no one touched me. At an age when the whole world was reckless to make contact, I wore heavy layers in August and looked down at my feet. And then, I walked out of the crooked-floored studio I was renting in Alphabet City and ran into an old man on purpose. He swore at me; his coffee spilled and I felt warm and full.
Lynn Strong lives in Brooklyn with her husband and their dog. She is working on a novel about a mother and daughter.