To a Girl, Age Eighteen
The first time you slide your fingers down your throat, you meet hesitation. There is a gurgling in your stomach, and you do not know if it is because its contents are making a reappearance or because of the uncertainty you feel in your bones. You do not know if you want to do this. You do not know if it is going to work. You slide your fingers down your throat farther, and your body moves forward sharply. Like someone has a hook down your throat and is reeling you in. You heave over the toilet bowl, eyes watering and cheeks reddening, but nothing comes out. You close your eyes and count to ten. You stand up, flush the toilet even though it’s empty, and walk back to your dorm room. This is not the last time this happens.
“I don’t know if anyone’s ever told you this, but you have a nice ass.” You are in your work uniform, and the hair that’s escaped from your ponytail is curling around your face, framing it. You are young, decades younger than the man that has told you this. You are separated by a counter, but it feels like he is standing in front of you, next to you, forcing his way inside of you. You stay still, pasting a smile on your face, thinking of Jurassic Park. If you don’t move, he won’t see you. If you don’t move, don’t blink, don’t breathe, he will go away. He smirks. “How old are you anyway?” You say seventeen, even though you’ve been eighteen for a month. He leaves. Later, you think of saying, “What is wrong with you?” You think of screaming and crying and having him kicked out of the theatre, but all you can remember is the need to smile, to make him feel comfortable in his lechery, to provide a space for him in your body.
You carve the name of your first boyfriend into your side. You let him take you, position you in any way he pleases. You let him enter your body, grunting and groaning, even though you do not know if this is right. You do not love him, but sex isn’t equal to love. Sex is nothing, meaningless in the scheme of things. You tell him you love him even though you don’t, but you fuck his best friend so he knows. Self-destruction comes to you as easily as masochism comes to him because he takes you back, but he doesn’t do it nicely. He makes you grovel, carves whore into the space next to his name. “You’re disgusting,” he says, “and only I can love you.” He kisses you with Budweiser lips, bruises you with meaty hands. You open yourself for him without a second thought, a flower blooming under the watchful eye of poison.
You are a colony, bursting with life. You are a building made of crumbling tinder. You are the universe, speckled with stars and teeming with secrets no one will ever know. You are bigger than yourself, and you know this, but you think you hate yourself, so you let these things happen to you. You do this to yourself with a watchful eye, taking note of your breaths and moans and flinches. You beg to be hard, hard as wood, hard as ice, hard as this fucking world, but you are softer than anything you know.
You take a match and set yourself on fire. You smile through the flames.
Rachael Brooks is an eighteen-year-old college student with a slight addiction to Dr. Pepper and a tendency to overshare. She’s terrible at keeping secrets, even worse at math, and she is currently trying to think of a better third-person bio.