On The Body

By: Katherine Heidecke

Sometimes, I think holding someone’s hand is more intimate than kissing someone’s lips. There’s more to lose when you make the first subtle move of a slightly outstretched arm, palm facing up. The first step of many small intimacies. Letting my fingers intertwine with his submits me to a power that is not my own.

I never thought somebody could desire my body. At least not until I was lying naked on a futon next to someone who only texted me at 2 a.m. It’s really quite funny at 19 years old, we think we have the world figured out. I am almost positive that each adolescent is passed through an assembly line once she reaches her 18th birthday, a sense of invincibility bolted into her core. It’s not until he unscrews the wrong thing in us--that’s when we finally let our bodies fall apart.

And it’s actually quite easy. To be torn apart at the hands of someone else. When I see someone wrapping her legs around a guy on a park bench in the middle of fall, I am reminded of all the things I cannot do, or the things that my mind simply will not allow me to do.

“You need to be more vulnerable with people.”

Vulnerability is willingly jumping in front of a fast-moving train. The likeliness of getting hit is high, while the possibility of passing unscathed is low. However, if unscathed, the reward is great. Holding out my hand to you is too great a risk.

Sometimes, I forget that my mind is a part of my body. Eleven times out of ten, my mind screws me over. All the times I trace over each individual stretch mark that plague my sides, or bite another nail, or admire a flatter stomach when I don’t have time to make dinner, are objects of over thoughtfulness.

When I was in grade school, I was constantly furious with myself. My frizzy hair, chubby waist, and bloated face all reminded me of the person I did not want to be. I would come home crying most weeks to my mom, unable to understand why I could not look like some of the thinner, more beautiful girls in my class. Out of all this complaining, whenever I reached for that second brownie or wanted to order pizza for dinner, my mother would say, “Don’t you want your shirts to fit?”

This feeling of unworthiness is so ingrained in my being. It is so ingrained with how I identify myself. If I am not critiquing every curve, every hair, every freckle, am I really a woman? Sometimes I imagine when this rhetoric will change; I know that it will not be in my own lifetime--maybe in my daughter’s or my daughter's daughter.

I continue to trace over each stretch mark. Some are a faint purple, ripe and recent. Others faded into flesh, just risen enough on the surface of my skin, still noticeable to the untrained eye. And then I imagine someone else tracing over the same marks. I squeeze my eyes shut and get up to do anything else.

After laying on the futon for five hours too long, I woke up to leave. I hoped he wouldn’t wake up, but he did and I was forced to ashamedly dress in front of him. In that moment, I became cognizant of my body. I opted for my previous night’s outfit over his cologne drenched sweatpants and sweatshirt. I avoided any physical contact and any nicety of goodbye.

That night I was hit by the train.

Here is my so-called body. The godly creation, perfectly formed in his image and my unlikeness. The body that I will pick and prod. The body I will let an unworthy man touch. The body that I will pump with vodka on a Saturday night. The body that I will reject as my own. The body that will not change, because I know it is my own, even if I refuse its mortality.