Notes on Body

by Kira Mesch| Fiction | Summer 2021

Corner of the Pantheon by Christine Dugas

CW: Gore and death

Here is what I have to offer: round face, sunburnt neck, scar on my right knee, bruise on my left thigh. Cracked toenails, one tattooed hip, oven burns on my forearms accumulated over years. My face gets red like my mother’s does. I cry when I am angry. 

My brother and I were born in December. My mother, not wanting to push us out of her, planned a C-section months in advance. The way she tells it, it snowed the day the doctors sliced us into the world. The snow piles sat wet and gentle on the ground while they sewed her body back up. 

As a kid I was cruel and spiteful and barely a girl. I wished I was some kind of animal so I grew my nails long like claws. When my brother and I fought, I tried to break the skin. When we were eight, he challenged me to a race at a rest stop. Halfway through, I pushed him hard so I’d win, and he fell. He bled like nothing I’d ever seen before. The wound healed to be a raised scar, an unfading island on a sea of tan skin. In high school, a decade later, I would sometimes look at 

his knee to check if it was still there. 

My brother was seven when he got his appendix removed. When he got to go back to school after, the hospital printed color images of the object onto glossy photo paper so he could show his class. I saw the photos the day he came back. They nauseated me. What happened, I assume, is that the doctors stuck a camera inside the slit they’d cut in him. The object was yellow and distended inside his open stomach, covered with veins and blood. 

Of course, I will die when I get old. Until then, I will watch women on the internet fill their bodies with collagen. In an Instagram video, I see a hypodermic needle filled with clear liquid injecting a woman’s lips. The needle enters the skin, the latex-gloved thumb pushes down the stopper, the lips plump, the thumb releases, and the hand drags the needle out from the body, leaving only a small, bloody hole. 

The dentist didn’t knock me out for my wisdom tooth removal. There was only one for them to pull, which was digging through my upper-left gum. After the dentist numbed me, I felt the bluntness of a metal bar lodge itself into my tooth, felt a crunch as the bar settled itself, felt a pull, felt something smooth and round fall onto my tongue. “That’s it,” the dentist’s assistant said. 

In a perfect world, I sit and rot. I let my body grow curdled and evil. I bet I’d taste foul to kiss. My mouth is wet and dark and red. Blood is wet and dark and red. I bite cherries and let the juice seep from their skin. I let my breath go sour from the sweetness. 

When my girlfriend was fourteen, the seventeen-year cicadas emerged from the ground in her hometown. She told me it was like hell on earth, how they’d scream with anguish and shed their former bodies onto the ground. She stepped out of her house onto their crackling former skin and crunched the shells onto the ground wherever she went. The sky blacked itself out with their bodies: their orange eyes, their papery wings, their howling laments.

The inside of my cheek is red. If I bit it, it would bleed. At the dentist, the hygienist will dig into my cavities with a metal bar and move it around to see how deep the hole is. The dentist tells me candy will rot my teeth. Cough syrup and lollipops are red. 

I was eighteen when my dad and I found the photos of my brother’s appendix in a shoebox, about a week after he died. I could barely look at the photos, the organ suspended in the wet darkness of his torso. I bet he was so small. I can’t imagine having ever been that young.

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