Miri was only twelve when someone’s elbow on a crowded bus left the tiniest dent in the supple flesh of her side, just above her waist. There was also a small bruise, which changed from purple to green and yellow before it disappeared, but the indentation remained.
As Miri grew, small depressions appeared on her shoulders and arms, on her back and her rear. They came unintended from kids with downcast eyes, pointy shoulders and frayed-edge backpacks protruding from the molasses of young flesh. These dents were shallow and painless, and Miri felt they made her solid, upright, more present in the world around her. They made her want to slow down and focus, grab people by the chin and say, hey, look at me, we are both here now.
Then there were the grabs and the rubs that came with intention. There was a force behind them, fueled by something dark and purposeful, which made them hurt and sting, made them leave deep, angry marks on Miri’s buttocks, the sides of her breasts, the length of her neck. Those who left them faced Miri with open eyes, narrow and unsmiling above their grinning mouths, eyes craving to see Miri fold into herself and disappear.
The first time Miri met her person, there was a gentle tap on her shoulder, then an arm sliding past her toward the condiment aisle, both touches gentle yet searing, and Miri could feel layers of her skin being burned off. She couldn’t go near those parts of herself for days.
Beneath the glimmer of a silver screen, his hand was heavy and hot, and left a clear wide imprint on Miri’s knee. Soon, every part of her had been squeezed and displaced, molded like clay beneath searching palms, baked solid in a shared flame, as much hers as it was his.
By the time their children could walk, each of them had bitten off a large chunk of Miri’s breasts. The wounds bore the shapes of their toothless gums, their small protruding teeth, marks of their growing bodies, their growing appetites.
Looking at herself naked in the mirror, Miri searched for a shape that resembled how she felt within, but couldn’t find it. She knew that she should love this, whatever it was that she saw before her, this lump of flesh that was both hard and soft, shaped by everyone to fit them, to suit their needs, and maybe she didn’t mind, but maybe she did, yes, she did, she always minded the intrusions, every single one of them, no matter how loving, how gentle. Because, to fit, there would always have to be less of her someplace, and the fitting, the fitting was not all it was cracked up to be, and she never saw any of them carrying around the indentations made by her. But the worst part was that she couldn’t remember herself before that first little elbow jab on that crowded bus, back when she was still whole.
Maura Yzmore writes short fiction and long equations somewhere in the Midwest. Her flash has appeared in Flash Fiction Online, Bending Genres, Gone Lawn, and elsewhere. Website: https://maurayzmore.com. Twitter: @MauraYzmore.
image: MM Kaufman