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I’m not fat; every time I run my hands over my stomach there’s a pothole-bumpbumpbump of ribs. My skin is wax paper – so weak and thin it might tear. I do not remember the last time I threw up; I do not remember the last time I slept.

“You’re getting fat,” says my sister. She has not seen my ribs. I make sure my stomach is covered by the towel when I leave the shower, so nobody can see. We do not speak of pain – it would not be polite.

My ribs are bigger today than they were yesterday. I do not know whether my ribs hurt, or my stomach hurts, or whether hurt is, in general, woven through me like highways through a nation, like mineshafts through the earth, like bones through a carcass. My ribs are ready to burst from my body and open me up to the world – spread and eager like a flower in spring.

Every morning I rub my hands over my ribs, and a sourness rises up from my throat to settle behind my tongue. They are bigger every morning, and I am smaller; I am less. I am collapsing inward forever until there is only awake-at-4am.

we are gravid with suffering – pregnant with the things we cannot say

we are sick with the protestant truth: medicine is weakness, suffering is strength

One day soon my stomach will split, and the world will see: grasping roots, a strangling vine, a monstrous blossom. One day, all of me will spill out and stain the heavy carpet. One day, I will do something deeply impolite — find words for my pain. Until then, I suffer in silence, as is proper.

Published inProse Fiction

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