I ate ribs today for lunch. I am made of a rib, yours. Did I tell you that I was eating your ribs? I hated staring at myself in them, their dainty shape poking through your skin.
Was I meant to be molded the same as these sisters? Only made to be part of you—delicate, petite, holding you together. I had to get rid of them somehow.
I pulled the small bones from your body as you slept and then swallowed the meat on them, whole.
It was delicious.
I was left with the small bones, which had structured your very center. I grabbed the mortar and pestle next to me and ground them into a fine dust. I sprinkled them on the dust and molded this bone and dust into my image and likeness.
I gently placed small sticks in the cavity I had made in you in order to replace the ribs I had stolen. Then I sewed you up and hid behind a tree in the distance.
When you awoke, you fell in love with my own creation and propagated a nation while I was free to roam the earth and dive deep into the sea.
Bits and Pieces
She keeps herself in jars. Cuts out bits and pieces as she sees fit and places them into the jars for analysis and research. She has seen these bits of tissue double themselves under the right circumstances. She thinks this might give her a chance to rebuild, become a categorically new and different person. She knows this is necessary.
There is no way to continue on as who she has been. Her body is infected by a plethora of the wrong kinds of experiences. She wants to live on newly—in a body people would recognize, but she would know had no connection to the pressures, violences, and violations that live in her. If she can erase the pressure of hands holding her hips down or the sound of heavy breathing, grunting in her ears, life might feel less hopeless, she thinks.
She became fascinated with this possibility on a whim when she first decided to place a flap of skin from a fresh wound in a jar. She only thought to observe her body in a different, deconstructed way—to see if it were possible to even associate this tiny bit of herself as ever having been part of her. But instead she noticed it had replicated itself by the next morning. She began cutting off bits of herself to see what factors aided in this replication.
At first, she only cut off other pieces of skin—some from her upper arm, her stomach, her thigh—but as she took notes and narrowed in on the environmental requirements of these small clonings (the body had to be cut and preserved at night, left to sit at least five hours without ever looking at it, it couldn’t be raining, etc., etc.) she became more bold. Her pinky toe, her left ear, her right breast. She becomes more and more lopsided, but her replicated parts glisten perfectly in the jars she places on the windowsill, reflecting the moonlight.
Once she collects enough, she will start to sew them all back together, using her new hands. New hands that had never touched another human being will first delicately bring her fragments together into a person worth considering as a whole. She cuts out her tongue, places it lovingly in a new jar and seals it shut. She is nearing the end. Each part of her is labeled on the jar, meticulously typed and printed using the label-maker she bought when she started the whole process. She removes the old pieces each morning and throws them away in a dumpster down the street, in hopes of avoiding suspicion. She wouldn’t want to mistake the old for the new. She knows it is a delicate process, and it hinges on a minuscule probability that everything will work as she anticipates. There is little besides the torso, arms, hands, and head left on her old body. This is the difficult part, she knows. This will take faith.
Over the course of several weeks she cuts away small bits from her stomach, labeling them exactly, drawing diagrams. She cuts off her nose, her mouth. She manages to pop out her eyes. The morning after, her new eyes open and she sees the remaining arms, upper chest, neck, and head propped up against a chair by the window, through the glass of the jar. Everything is elongated, smudged, distorted—but she is unfazed by the state of herself. This is how she has felt for years anyway. Now is the time when she will finally become whole. Her right arm saws her left off.
She ordered three comically large-sized jars off the Internet for this day and the next. The kind of jar that a company would fill with jellybeans and have its employees guess the number to win some vacation days or a gift card to a local chain restaurant. Her new eyes watch as the left arm is placed in one of these jars and sealed shut. The remaining arm saws off the head. She expects blackness, but her new body is indeed entirely separate, merely waiting to be put together, so she witnesses the remaining arm and upper chest place the head and neck in the second large jar, sealed shut. Her new mouth smiles in its respective jar. Tomorrow, it will all come together.
T. A. Stanley lives in Brooklyn and is doing her best to get by while she writes short stories surrounding the experience of trauma and her relationship to womanhood. She has been published in The Atlas Review, Crack the Spine Literary Journal, The Bookends Review, Belleville Park Pages, and Anamesa: An Interdiscplinary Journal among others. Her work is forthcoming in Paper Darts. You can follow her on twitter and instagram @ladytstanz or at her website tastanley.squarespace.com.