Smoke in the Water

1

October 2, 2017 by The Citron Review

by Mandy Shunnarah

 

The lazy river curves in its oval trajectory—curves expected, built into its form. Nothing like my newly mounting curves bulging from the swimsuit bought two summers ago in the children’s section.

Some friends’ fathers avert their eyes, sneaking cigarettes for distraction. Others stare with abandon, just as their daughters stared at the downy hair billowing under my arms as we changed in the communal restroom.

Me, conscious of being stared at. Them, conscious of the indecorum of being caught staring.

A patch of blood forms on my sun-yellow swimsuit bottoms, disfiguring the printed hibiscus flowers.

“Go on and get in the water,” a mother who is not mine tells me. “It’ll go away when you get in the water.” She rubs the cross around her neck like a worry stone and thrusts an inner tube toward me, ushering me out of the way—dreading the looming discussion with her own child.

I hear her mumble, “Bless her heart. Let’s offer her up at prayer circle,” to another mother, who only shakes her head.

Offer me up. Another sacrificial body: someone to pray for, condescend to, lord over.

In the tradition of generations of women before me, I do as I’m told and don’t ask questions.

I slink into the water, the space between my legs scarlet like the lit end of a cigarette, blood curling like a waft of smoke behind me, disappearing before anyone notices.

 

Mandy Shunnarah is a writer and book reviewer living in Columbus, Ohio. Her essays and reviews have been published in Entropy magazine, PANK, The Missing Slate, and New Southerner magazine. Her work is forthcoming in Fourth Genre and other publications. To read more, visit her website, offthebeatenshelf.com.

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Snow on brush in desert

IMAGE CREDIT: Jill Katherine Chmelko. Protest Road, Winter. 2019.

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