What is this, my lover asked, peering between my legs, There's a string. I immediately assumed I had forgotten a tampon inside of me, even though it had been more than a week since I bled. I imagined a cotton thumb swirling with crustaceans and psychopathic bacteria, ready to kill me at the first sign of weakness in my body's defenses. My mother warned me such things could happen. When you are older you become forgetful, she said. And I understood forgetfulness was a euphemism, but I wasn't old enough to understand it, and I'm still not.
Except she wasn't my mother, she was a mother-
A video cassette my father brought home one night to help me sleep. The woman's face, a generic composite of all the motherly faces in the world. But maybe that's why I don't understand her wisdom—it's just always a little bit off, meant for one of her other daughters, or designed to serve all of us, so really none of us. And I wondered what she would do with a daughter like me anyway, one who-
Before I could reply to my lover, he tugged on the string. It was tangled up in hair/ felt like pin pricks/an opening (maybe the result of deforestation)-
When I opened my eyes, his fist has been transformed into a giant squirming slug.
and that's when I knew someone had done a bad sort of magic on us,
and our love was doomed.
wasps burrow into my body
while I sleep, the same way men do. I have never hated a species
as much as I hate our own.
His transformation continued throughout the night-
my lover became a snail; my house his shell.
My father was pissed. Make him take it off.
I ignored him and dipped my hand into my lover's flesh.
He's oozing all over the neighborhood. In fact, you both are.
What I didn't finish telling you before is that I am skinless. Intestines wrap around my throat and shine like rubies in a certain light. I sprinkle drying powder on my organs so that my entire body doesn't glisten obscenely.
My boyfriend becoming a snail did not weaken the sexual aspects of our relationship like you might assume. In fact, I enjoyed sharing a bed with something as soft and vulnerable as myself. Sometimes, he would dilate one of his pores so I could breathe effortlessly while my body floated inside his. And I closed my eyes and pretended to be weightless in space.
This made our doomed love all the more horrible in the end.
I showed my father a map of snail anatomy. Showed him where the heart was in our home, the stomach, even the gonads (which were located in the attic)(which was maybe why so many birds had taken to pecking the shingles off of our roof)
My father was not heartless enough to kill my lover, but he could not get over having to witness our love-making at all hours.
I cannot tell whose slime is whose, and in some states this would be criminal
He set up a tent in an empty lot three streets down.
I had a dream that I was an animal—splayed hips, hooves, and fur. The land was covered in eucalyptus trees that barely brushed my ribcage. Someone gutted me like a fish and fucked me in my wound, yet I still tried to walk forward. In my dream my sheer enormity meant that I was not used to being helpless.
When I wake up inside my lover, I can feel infestations all around us, birds, snakes, bats, rats, and insects. All trying to get inside our home.
We both know infiltration and death is inevitable.
I watch his beating heart while I make a fungi omelet in the kitchen. I am careful to keep the spice cupboard closed. I couldn't imagine living without rosemary, coriander, even the simplicity of thyme. But my lover flinches away at the memories of certain foods now. His thoughts translated into sensations. I hear a rap-tap-tap-tap on the kitchen window, and when I peek behind the curtains, thousands of eyes meet mine. Their gaze shifts beyond me and they gorge themselves on the sight of his heart.
I can't help but wonder, should I take the first bite?
It's my father's voice inside my head, but no, no, no- genetics is no excuse—I thought that thought into existence.
Have I told you about my birth?
There were two women who gave birth, their rooms on opposite ends of a hospital corridor, but somehow there was only one baby. The child appeared equidistant between the two of them.
The doctors, nurses, and medical staff admitted that no one was paying close attention to either of these deliveries. The mothers were R-o-b-u-s-t. Robust (also poor and uninsured).
It was clear after thorough medical examinations that both women had given birth and were no longer pregnant. The first woman said the child was ripped out of her. The other claimed one moment it was inside her, the next it was floating, bobbing up and down the hallway as if it was being carried away by an invisible current.
It is only fair, an attending physician said, that each woman gets half of a baby. He took scissors and cut the now squirming, squalling, infinitely pink creature in half. It was still. Color drained from both halves of the baby. Walla. Dead baby or babies. Depending on how you would use the plural in such a case.
Of course, my father was shocked when his wife came home with only half an infant and immediately killed her. (Whenever I ask him how he moved her from this world into the next, he says: Can't you see I did it out of love? I thought she had killed you, I would do anything for you).
He threw my body on the fire and hours later removed a charred spinal cord. He took his wife's organs from her body and carefully arranged them to make a new daughter. He draped my mother's intestines around my throat, and I became beautiful, so beautiful in fact, he forgot to put the skin on.