Thirteen, summer before starting eighth grade, they tell me I have scoliosis. Something's not right. We are held upright by our spines: mine is crooked. Crooked. Bent? Bad? It must be straightened, the curves smoothed out.
I lie on a table, ready for dissection, and the men begin their work on my body, covering it with wet, cold layers of plaster. Fingers slide across the soft flesh of my belly, my breasts; I am immobile, faceless, a body being erased. Can’t move.
Two velcro straps, pulled tight, clamp the brace around my torso. Thick, hard plastic extends from under my right shoulder blade down to my butt. Bruises sketch lines over my hips, my spine, my ribs: in the mirror my skeleton is outlined.
“You must be a dancer!” I smile prettily, rigidly, “help me,” I want to say. Can’t move. Straps release but my lungs still feel empty. When it’s not around my waist, the plastic shell of my torso perches grotesque, faceless, taunting: soon it’ll be wrapped back around me.
I imagine undoing the velcro, sliding out from its hold, setting it on the ground, then running it over with my car. A satisfying crunch. Almost like the sound of breaking bones. I drive over it again and again and again. With each crunch I imagine breath returning to my chest. My body is soft again.
You can’t show that much skin. Your body is different now. You’re not a girl any more. You have to be conscious of how men will see you. You don’t want to attract that kind of attention.
Arms clamp around my waist. Velcro straps? Arms. Squeeze. Can’t breath. “You’ve got the kind of body guys love to fuck.” Crunch of bones underneath the wheels of my car. I think I hit him. Straps, no, arms, loosen, I slip out. I didn’t realize I was running until I reached the school. My little sisters walk out. I smile prettily, rigidly.
Girls, it is important that you adhere to the dress code. It can be very distracting if you’re exposing your chests and legs when we’re trying to teach.
Same teacher helps his eyes to my chest and legs as I approach. “You are so gorgeous. I bet you have guys telling you that all the time.” I smile prettily, rigidly, perched on the edge of my chair for the rest of our tutoring session. “You have such good posture.”
You’ve got porn start tits. When are you going to start using them?
What I remember the most about him is how big he was. Always stood out in a crowd. I always blended in. Why me then? I’m not popular. I’ve never even kissed someone. Didn’t want to kiss him. He could be very persuasive though.
School bus: his fingers. Everywhere. Can’t move.
I sat at my desk one morning and started to sob. I sobbed walking down the halls, through each class, through lunch break, faceless.
Happy again. He liked my outfit today. “You’ve got the kind of body guys love to fuck.”
My mother must agree. She glances at me with fear. She must see something bad.
Ugh, I’m so jealous of your body. You could have any guy you want. You’re so lucky.
A heavy bag in front of me, spine a little straighter, but still standing crookedly, my first punch lands without making a sound. I wish my body could also be that impenetrable, that impervious to blows.
Close your fist. Good, just like that. Don’t forget to pivot your foot. Jab. Harder. Come on. Get angry.
L.L. Constance is a health journalist with a background in print and digital editorial production.