I remember the first time I heard the word "fat" and knew it was referring to me. Jack Reese stood in my garage, one by one (like shooting ducks) he went through my (tiny) friends, "you're fat", "you're fat", "you too". And with his mouth pointed right at my head, I braced myself against an insult that would never come. Silence. "It's because you actually are".
That's the day my stomach became my worst enemy- it was the visible, palpable, squeezable billboard of my inability to control myself. Every introduction was tainted by a guilty smile as if to say
"I am sorry that I am not better", "I am sorry that I am not less of me".
Hips ballooned and spilled over my jeans, I scratched at my skin like a rat at the edges of a sinking boat. Every picture was cropped, every pose was bisected by crossed arms, as if I was trying to hold myself together, pushing my edges closer as if they'd just snap into place with enough pressure. I would touch myself in the dark, imagine that my fingers were red-hot knives and fantasized that I could just pull the skin away from me. Slice it off. I felt muscles under the layers, I felt the person that I needed myself to be under fifty pounds of unnecessary.
I remember the first time someone mocked my stretch marks. A cruel girl who jumped her insults around like racing heart beats on a hospital machine. I remember the first time I lifted my shirt, like peeling the shell off an egg and how someone else's fingertips were so much gentler than my own.
The first girl to tell me that my stomach was beautiful had railroad tracks up her back. Long vertical scars from where they unzipped her spine and twisted it into something ordinary. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. The second girl to tell me that my stomach was beautiful had a crooked smile and constellations stained into her skin. She made everything feel like summer, like I was the first painting she had ever seen.The third's eyes were so brown and honest when she slide the words into my lips that I had no choice but to believe her. She had tattoos of bible pages and arms that made me weak in the knees. I stopped wearing a shirt after that. Strutted across her hardwood, demanded enough attention to make up for every year that I had shrunken away from it.
Slowly, somehow, my stomach collapsed. Hips bones rose as mountain ranges, the soft pools of waist nestled between them like a rippled lake. I saw myself, like woven fabric, my scars intersecting into burlap, strongest at my arc weld. The view of farmland from an airplane, river marks on a classroom map, bolts of lightening, the cracked desert floor. Your stripes are military medals. Your thighs are tree trunks and you stand, widest at the roots, they cannot tear you up.
You are a fucking volcano, don't photoshop your armor off. Your lines are snowflakes and spiderwebs and without them, well fuck, you'd be an empty canvas. One day someone is going to come along and love you for every single scratch and you're going to roll over in bed. You're going to shy away from their hands. You're going to hold the blankets like a shield against them. You're not going to hear all those poems they'll write about the wonder of your hair on their pillow because you'll be too busy grabbing at your stomach in a full-length mirror.
Don't you ever apologize for your weight, don't you ever apologize for any of the people you needed to be before you finally reached yourself.