Identical, p.10

Identical, page 10



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  feel necessary. Alive. This thing I


  (no, can’t) is new. Forbidden.

  (No. Don’t.) What’s wrong

  with me? I can’t believe I


  this. Why me? Why now?

  Why at all? My hand floats

  across my curvelessness,

  moves lower, to the need.

  Who (or what?)

  can I make believe is loving me?

  Am I Sick?

  My skin is hot. Fevered. Demanding

  to be soothed. Touched. Satisfied.

  Have I gone crazy? I have never, ever

  done such a thing. Never unlocked

  this private room inside of me. Never

  ever wanted to take a look inside.

  Am I possessed? Entered by a demon,

  chained and padlocked, inside of myself?

  I feel possessed, taken by some evil,

  sick desire. Desire I can’t control.

  What is wrong with me? I don’t want

  this. Oh God. It can’t feel good.

  But it does.

  But it does.

  It does.

  It does.



  Totally Humiliated

  I go into the bathroom.

  I’d like to take a hot bath,

  but no time now. I’ll have

  to settle for a shower.

  The steamy cascade

  streams over my body.

  Sandalwood soap

  lifts in a fragranced

  fog, cleanses and

  perfumes skin and air.

  Nasty stickers of hair

  defile me, the goddess

  within. I reach for my

  razor, triple bladed

  and critically sharp.

  I’ve shaved my legs for

  years, know to be careful,

  yet suddenly I don’t

  give a fuck and push

  hard. The consequences

  are immediate. Blood

  streams from the long,

  wide slice I’ve opened.

  It vanishes down the drain,

  and I can’t help but smile.

  Yeah, It Stings

  But at least I feel something.

  Something besides hungry.

  Something besides afraid.

  Weird. I always thought

  cutters were sick. Sicker

  than me, even. But with

  a single swipe I understand

  why they do it. Why they like

  it, even though they hate it.

  I let the water run over the cut,

  ratchet it hotter, watch the blood

  slow, stutter, almost halt.

  I like the way the exposed flesh

  looks, all pinkish white. It looks

  new, although I know that isn’t right.

  It’s the same age as my skin,

  my bones. Me. It’s been there

  with me since the beginning.

  Been there with me through

  thick. Thin. Daddy. Suddenly

  I don’t like how it looks at all.

  Ugly Flesh

  Still exposed, I dress in loose

  drawstring pants, a soft, baggy

  blouse. Definitely not haute couture.

  In fact, I look like a pregnant hippie.

  To complete the look, I make two long

  braids with my grown-out bangs,

  pull them together in back. All I need

  now is some daisies to weave in.

  Several minutes behind my usual

  schedule, guess I’d better skip

  breakfast. Somehow I’ve lost

  my appetite anyway.

  Not gonna go double digits like this,

  but I’ve got plenty of time to work on it.

  And the baggy pants make me

  look larger than the size seven

  I keep trying to outgrow.

  Backpack Stuffed

  With homework and books, I maneuver

  the hallway as quietly as possible.

  Right hand on the latch, I’m almost out

  into the cold, cold morning when

  the sledgehammer falls:

  Where do you think you’re going,

  dressed like some lunatic street person?

  Just the tone of Daddy’s voice makes

  my entire body quake. I don’t dare turn

  around, don’t dare look into his eyes.

  In them, I know I’ll see the real lunatic.

  I find an excuse. “Uh, we…we have

  a play rehearsal this morning. This will

  help me get into my role, that’s all.”

  He doesn’t buy a word of it.

  Today is Wednesday. You have drama

  Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.

  Has he actually memorized my class schedule?

  Does he really keep an eye on such things?

  I mean, yes, he’s a control freak and all….

  I finally face him, crazy man in the eyes and all.

  He’s there, okay, daring me not to admit

  the lie. I know better. “Yes, that’s right,

  but I’m already running late. I don’t

  have time to change now.”

  The lunatic levels me.

  No daughter of mine goes out in public

  like that. Go change. I’ll drive you.

  I Back Up the Hallway

  Eyes firmly planted on Daddy,

  who follows. Why does it have

  to be just the two of us here?

  I want my sister. I want my mom.

  Surely he won’t trail me into

  my room. Won’t watch me undress.

  Won’t stop me from transforming

  from hippie to soc. Right? Right?

  Please tell me I’m right!

  I back into my room, start to close

  the door, hoping he won’t push

  inside. “I’ll hurry, okay, Daddy?”

  I stare at him, try to measure

  him, and the weirdest thought

  flashes inside my head: He must

  have been incredibly good-looking

  once, before life crashed around

  him. Took him down. He pauses.

  Should I help you choose

  what to wear? His voice

  is soft as baby skin.

  This can go a couple of ways.

  Say no and face his anger?

  Say yes and face…what, exactly?

  Instinct tells me to accept his offer.

  “Uh. Sure.” But I start to shake

  as he steps through the doorway,

  moves swiftly across the floor to my

  closet, pokes inside, swaying back

  and forth like an Indian cobra charmer.

  This, he says, has always

  been one of my favorites. You

  look like your mother in it.

  He Caresses

  A pink angora sweater, pets

  it softly, as if it were the bunny

  the fur was stripped from.

  He hands it to me, along

  with a slim pair of burgundy

  jeans. Daddy has good taste.

  I take his offerings, start toward

  the bathroom, but he stops

  me with the force of his eyes.

  I know what he wants. Sudden

  nausea rocks me, but just as I think

  for sure I’ll vomit right here,

  the telephone rings, yanking

  Daddy from his trance.

  His head turns toward the door.

  Oh. Been expecting that call.

  Hurry and change. You don’t

  want to be late for school.

  The Jeans Rub My Cut

  And painfully so, but the pain

  reminds me that I’m still

  alive, still in control

  of at least one

sp; thing.

  Right now I need to feel more

  in control, so I stash my

  hippie clothes deep

  in my book


  Daddy is still on the phone.

  I call “good-bye,” rush

  out the door, down

  the street, after

  the bus.

  I can see the flash of its tail

  lights, breathe its greasy

  exhaust, but I

  can’t catch

  up to it.

  I watch it swing wide, onto

  the highway and up

  the hill toward

  school. Now


  Behind me, I hear a well-

  tuned car and know

  without turning

  it’s Daddy’s


  He Pulls Up

  Not quite scraping the curb.

  The window lowers, and I wait,

  expecting a hot wave of anger.

  Instead his eyes sweep over

  my body, assessing. He catches

  something he doesn’t like.

  Much better, except for your

  hair. Take them out.

  Take what out? Oh, the braids.

  I do as instructed. Wait again.

  That will do. Now get in. Why

  didn’t you wait for me?

  “You were still on the phone.

  I thought I could catch the bus.”

  I settle into the plush warmed

  leather, unworthy of its comfort.

  You know I hate disobedience.

  I hope it won’t happen again.

  “I’m sorry, Daddy. I was just

  trying to save you the trouble….”

  His head snaps in my direction,

  and his hand flashes toward me.

  It takes all my willpower not

  to flinch, not to bloat his anger.

  His fingers catch my cheeks,

  pinch until my mouth opens.

  I’ll decide what is or isn’t trouble.

  You just follow orders. Understand?

  Drool dripping from my open

  mouth, all I can do is nod.

  His hand falls away from my face,

  and stress falls away from his.

  That’s my girl. You’re the one

  person in the world I can count on.

  After That

  He pulls carefully away

  from the curb, turn signal

  doing its obligatory thing.

  To the casual observer,

  I know,

  we are quite a picture.

  Judge Gardella, dashing

  in tailored navy blue,

  and his teenage daughter,


  in pink angora. But what’s

  underneath that sweater

  is the antithesis of normality,

  however that word

  is defined.

  And hey, when it comes

  to abnormal, I can only

  be one-upped


  the man driving the car. What

  would the neighbors think if they

  could look through our windows,

  beyond the closed curtains, and see

  what’s inside?


  School Drags Today

  Not that it’s ever exactly exciting,

  with the possible exception

  of Lawler’s history class.

  I know

  it’s terribly warped of me

  to spend an entire block

  thinking about what’s tucked

  behind the man’s zipper. Oh yeah,


  damn sick, okay. But at least

  I’m not bored. Right now I’m

  in English, trying to figure

  out how the word “faggot”

  is defined,

  other than by a homophobe.

  We have to do a paper about

  how English has been bastardized


  popular culture. But, much

  like Kaeleigh’s door, the cover

  of a dictionary is not particularly

  something I want to open to see

  what’s inside.

  I’m Trying to Avoid

  Exactly that when Shelby

  taps my shoulder. Look.

  Outside, clearly framed

  by the window glass,

  my best and dearest friend

  Madison sidles up to Ian.

  A deep shade of anger

  blossoms beneath my skin.

  Screwing around with Mick—

  and so me—is one thing.

  Messing with Ian is something

  else, something unforgivable.

  I can’t believe I’m standing

  up for Kaeleigh, but I so am.

  I raise my hand. “Excuse me,

  Mrs. Finch, but I feel sick.

  May I go to the rest room?”

  Clearly unwilling to invite

  diarrhea or vomit, she waves

  me out the door.

  I Have No Real Right

  To play stand-in for Kaeleigh, but

  she wouldn’t have the nerve to do

  what needs to be done anyway.

  Sorry, twin o’ mine, but it’s true.

  I watch from a short distance

  for a minute or two, trying to size

  up the situation, head to toe. Or

  maybe boob to chest is more apt.

  Not a millimeter separates Ian’s

  T-shirt from Madison’s blouse.

  In his defense, I will say Ian looks

  immensely uncomfortable.

  As I start toward them, he sees

  me, and his demeanor shifts

  from complacency to sheer panic.

  Oh darlin’, you just wait.

  At the terrified look in his eyes,

  Madison turns to face me. Smiles.

  Oh, girl. That is so not the way

  to deal with this. I’m ready to rock.

  But since I’m supposed to be

  Kaeleigh, I’ll notch it back

  to something more like passive.

  At least for the moment.

  As I Move Closer

  The tenor of the scene changes

  yet again. Madison remains

  possessive, of course. It’s Ian

  whose body language alters.

  I had expected contriteness.

  Instead he seems unmovable,

  despite the certain emotion

  betrayed by his eyes: hurt.

  Okay, what did that bitch tell

  him? All thoughts of Kaeleigh

  tossed aside, I move faster toward

  the two of them. With

  obvious intent. Madison’s smile

  falls from her face and I know

  she has read the message in

  my eyes: Get the fuck

  away from him! She does, too.

  But not far. She’s a total player,

  and all in all, a worthy opponent.

  Oh, hey. Hope you don’t mind

  my borrowing Ian’s ear. I was

  just asking him to vote for me

  for junior class president.

  OMG! She’s got to be joking.

  “Oh, really? Brave of you to

  run…” I leave the obvious

  message hanging. Think better

  about letting her off so easy.

  “I’m sure Ian is smart enough

  to vote for the best candidate,

  though.” Then I move between

  them, turn to face Ian’s sad eyes.

  “May I talk to you for a minute?”

  His response is unexpected.

  He levels me with his dark

  gaze. Not right now. I’m late

  for an appointment with my

  guidance counselor. Later.

And off he stalks, leaving

  Madison and I standing here

  together. We both stare

  after him, nothing left to say

  to each other. We both know

  exactly what the other thinks.

  Maybe That Wasn’t

  Such a good move. Then again,

  maybe it was. Hopefully I at least

  managed some sort of damage

  control. Then again, maybe not.

  I wonder what she said to Ian.

  Well, it still isn’t really my business.

  And right now my mind is wrapped

  around Mick, who’s supposed to pick

  me up during third block. Spanish.

  Uh-huh, I’m ditching. Oh, well.

  I stand on the side of the gym,

  where hopefully no teachers will

  notice me, waiting to do one

  more wrong thing. Okay, several

  wrong things, all at once.

  I can’t help but think about Ian,

  and I can’t help but wonder

  what I can do to shut Madison’s

  big mouth once and for all.

  It’s a quandary, needing a fix.

  Maybe getting my head will

  fix it. I sometimes believe I think

  best when I’m the most loaded.

  Probably just wishful thinking.

  But hey, here comes my ride.

  Once Again


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