They tell us our story, they scatter it like rose petals in front of us when we walk: how God plucked out one of Adam’s ribs to make us, and that’s why, when we lay in bed with our future husbands and press our cheeks to their soft, mangled chests, we will feel safe at last, listening to the steady rush of home. They remind us that we took an apple from a snake once and that’s why, once a month, our uterine walls shed tears of blood, why bringing new life into the world is called labor. If not for that sweet, crisp bite, if not for that forgotten dribble of juice down our chins, babies would slide out into the world like greasy bottles of suntan lotion slipping from our hands. Original Sin, they say, patting our arms for too long, standing too close. It can’t be helped. Our breasts are like two fawns, they tell us, and we will need to keep them hidden, except when our husbands or our offspring get the urge to suck or bite. The best accessory is a gentle spirit, and also modesty, and also those aforementioned breasts, large but not too large, and also our hair, long but not too long. Short hair is for feminists and lesbians, which they don’t bother saying out loud. We hear them just fine. God is a jealous God, they tell us, and it’s a good thing, too. Imagine if he weren’t jealous, imagine if he allowed his bride to be passed around to all the lesser gods who wanted a turn, imagine if God was fine with sloppy seconds, is that the kind of man you’d want to marry? They tell us we are sparkling rubies, the kind of treasure that men bury in a field so that they can buy the whole field, and us with it. They tell us we are the weaker vessels, and they will take extra special care not to break us. They tell us a new story, when we’re old enough to hear it: Imagine getting a new bicycle for your birthday, tires fresh and clean, a soft pink ribbon tied to the handlebars. How would you feel? Now imagine that same bicycle, and it still rides, but the paint is flaking, the chain rusted, the tires sagging, their tread worn smooth. Imagine, they say, how you’d feel riding that thing around. It takes us too long, considering all we have endured thus far, to realize that we are the bicycle and our husbands are the crestfallen little boys who will ride us around the neighborhood because their daddy was too cheap to buy them something shiny, but the whole time they’re thinking of the other kid whose sweaty ass hovered above our sleek frame, whose shoes ground dirt into our pedals. They tell us this story with the grim professionalism of a doctor imparting bad news. They do their best to take whatever seed of the divine was left in us and beat it to death with a sock full of purity, its gold coins jangling together. Only they fail, because we are still here, we are together, and that is a divine thing. We are here and I am rubbing sunscreen into your soft shoulders, and you have cut your hair short, and I am counting your freckles, their wild constellations, calling each one by name. Somewhere, maybe those boys are riding in circles around their neighborhoods. Maybe they’re very happy. But that deep, yawning pit in their chest isn’t my home, as it turns out, because my home is lounging on the beach with me, sipping margaritas in sugar-dipped glasses, and God is here, too. I think of her often. I say her name every time I come.
Lindy Biller grew up in Metro Detroit and now lives in Wisconsin. Her fiction has recently appeared at SmokeLong Quarterly, Okay Donkey, and Heavy Feather Review. Find her on Twitter at @lindymbiller.