Puberty hits you faster than expected. You go from wearing basketball shorts and graphic tees to short shorts and crop tops. Your badly cut bangs sprout and grow past your shoulders. Your breasts bloom into melons. Your thighs expand past your waist. Your body is morphing and you don’t have any time to process it before everyone can’t stop talking about how much you’ve grown. Within seconds, you’re told you can’t stay out late. You can’t trust anyone. Your daddy says he’s buying a gun.
Before you know it, your body has become a warzone. It’s shedding blood once a month, sometimes more. Bra straps dig into your shoulders, leaving red lines that turn white when you release the pressure. The fluctuating hormones affect your mental state and turn you against yourself. Now every pimple is a war cry, every extra pound is a step closer to death. Car horns honk at you wherever you go. Daytime doesn’t mean safe. Your father threatens anyone who gets too close to you with violence–his friends egg him on.
All around you, young people are red-faced, crying, screaming, yelling, punching, clawing, hiding from their bodies. Everyone is fighting themselves and each other, struggling to fit into their own skins, wanting different skins, hating the shapes, sizes, colors of their skins. For some, the war ends quickly. Others come back willingly as the attacker. They pick up a gun, stalk the streets, honk their horns, buy you a drink, stay silent as their friends bark at you, give you a compliment and if you don’t humor it they’ll call you a bitch, and then they go to sleep, their dicks hard, craving touch, wanting a body to sleep next to theirs that they can claim so they don’t have to go back to war anymore.
But for you, this war knows no end. Your brown skin comes with heavy wide hips, back pain, love handles, and endometriosis. Peering eyes stalk you from the shadows, waiting till you’re alone to strike–to hit a bullseye. There are others like you, girls who never came back home, who are buried beneath the dirt, who are behind bars for killing their attackers. You hear these stories and decide to spend most of your time inside, only leaving when another trustworthy man is with you, peering out from behind your windows wondering when the streets will stop being littered with bodies. Bodies like yours. Bodies that are not just bodies. Bodies that belong to somebodies who just want the war to end.
Diamond Braxton (she/her) is a queer, Black-Mexican writer who graduated with a degree in Creative Writing from the University of Houston. She has work published or forthcoming in The Acentos Review, Hellebore Press, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, and Mixed Mag and is also a Tin House Summer Workshop Alum. She has done editorial work with Sourcebooks, and currently, she resides in Houston, Texas works as the Editor in Chief for Defunkt magazine.
image: Kelsey Zimmerman is a writer and artist from Michigan currently living in Iowa. Her work is published or forthcoming in Nurture: A Literary Journal, Ghost City Review, Unlost Journal, and The Indianapolis Review.