Body Like Paper
The girl next to me in English writes love songs in Romanian, always humming an annoying tune. Her thick foundation leaves a line along her chin where the darker color of her face meets the paleness of her neck. She says she Facetimes every night with the 21-year-old boyfriend she met when visiting her grandparents in Wherever, Romania.
I tell Rain about her at lunch. But Rain doesn’t laugh, which is totally what I thought would happen. She just rolls her eyes and turns to Samantha, so I’m left staring at Rain’s shoulder and her tight ballerina bun. Rain’s the kind of girl who can slice a girl with a word like a paper cut and then tame boys and hold them on her wrist, like those hunters with trained falcons.
It’s only because I’m in ballet with Rain and make her laugh that she threw me a life preserver and made room for me in her circle at the beginning of this year. At the ballet studio yesterday, as Rain laced her pointe shoes, crossing pink ribbons twice around her ankles and tucking the tips under, she said to me, “I can’t wait until I’m Sugarplum and you’re my understudy.” My pointe shoes were already laced; I bent forward, head against knees, stretching my hamstrings. Hiding my face. I mumbled into my pink tights, “I have better feet than you.” Rain swiveled her head and glared at me. I wanted to suck my words like hard candy so they’d dissolve.
Now, I circle the group and praise Samantha’s shirt and another girl’s headband, but the girls don’t respond. Then Rain says, “Why is she still here?”
The other girls laugh and then I’m gone, wandering around the cafeteria until I slide onto a bench next to the Romanian. She’s with some other Romanians or Russians or whatever with hair dyed red and mascara making their eyelashes into spider legs.
She says, “Don’t tell me you’re into my songs now.”
“Not that gibberish,” I say and go to the library where all the social outcasts study at lunch.
I write Rain a note with my purple pen. When I’m done, I fold the notebook paper into an origami envelope, something that Rain’s mother taught us at the one sleepover I had at her house. I’m careful, running over the folds with my thumbnail, making sure the edges of the paper meet. I’ll push it through the slit on her locker door. I wish I could fold my body like the paper, forehead to toes, right arm to left arm, slip into Rain’s locker. So she could read the longing creased into my flesh.
Lori Sambol Brody lives in the mountains of Southern California. Her short fiction has been published in Little Fiction, Tin House Flash Fridays, New Orleans Review, The Rumpus, Necessary Fiction, and elsewhere. She can be found on Twitter at @LoriSambolBrody and her website is lorisambolbrody.wordpress.com.
Photo by Madeline Wu