I bear so much about you
The sparrows are swollen, and nobody notices. My father doesn’t know this, but I’ve replaced the deer, the birds, the squirrels in our backyard with statues. He shoots, and the stone blossoms. My father smiles, not knowing the difference. The blood is still left in the body.
When I’m alone, my body tugs on itself and blushes. Every day, I grow a little more, and I don’t know why. I wish I could wallpaper myself onto the world. I imagine men playing golf on my lips, jumping into man-made pools on my vagina. Who will see me then? I turn and see my boyfriend snorting at what I’ve just told him, red-throated. He stands two fingers on the skin of my arm and pretends they are people. He makes them run up and down my body. He smiles at me, thinking he’s fixed me, and I can’t help but feel foolish.
I wonder if our fingerprints are misprints. If we were given the wrong stamps at birth. I trace the circles on my skin, and they don’t feel like mine. I wake up in the middle of the night and call my mother. There is a thing inside me I didn’t put there. Is it safe to take out? Her voice stretches towards me, but I can’t touch it. I take out a thesaurus to better understand. I only know this language, but I translate myself over and over. Is it secure to unfasten? Is it appropriate to disconnect? Is it time to clean off? My mother texts me later that night and mistypes, “I care so very much about you” as “I bear so very much about you.” She corrects herself and apologizes over and over. I hug myself as tight as I can. I squeeze the swollen out of me.
My boyfriend only likes to touch me when we’re in front of a mirror. He says it’s more intimate this way. He watches himself move me, and I don’t know where to look. I imagine replacing my body with stone. Yesterday, my father got bored of shooting deer and shot the neighbor’s garden gnomes instead. I don’t know how to fix this. I learn that the craftsman had left tiny bags of animal crackers inside each gnome. I open the bags and place them all in my mouth until they dissolve. I wonder where the blood has gone. I don’t know how to fix this.
In the mirror, I turn around and confidently tell my boyfriend, I bear so much about you. He takes his eyes off mirror-me and looks at my face. He misunderstands and blushes. I blush too––only thinking of how foolish he is.
Sabrina Helen Li is a writer from New Jersey. Her short fiction is published or forthcoming in The Threepenny Review, Tin House Online, and The Boston Review, among others. Sabrina is a senior studying English at Harvard College.
Sena Moon is a recipient of the 2020 Pen/Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers, third place winner of Glimmer Train’s New Writers’ Contest (May/June 2018), and first place winner of Boulevard’s 2019 Short Fiction Contest. Her fiction has appeared and is forthcoming in Quarterly West and Boulevard. She holds an MFA from the Helen Zell Writers’ Program and hails from Seoul, Korea.