Issue 226, Fall 2018
My lil sister/niece/granddaughter/baby cousin doesn’t know she’s pretty, so she asks everybody, one post at a time. Her mom showed up at her high school graduation, no one had seen her in eight years. Mothers like that never know how to dress, too much fake jewelry, fake hair, and a big-ass fake leather purse still too small for all her shame and addictions to everything else. My lil sister/niece/granddaughter/baby cousin went to a costume party dressed as Selena or Madonna or Paula Abdul, just a thin layer of 1985 draped over her tits. She works out, a lot. A pic for the shoulder press: 78 likes. A pic for the dead lifts: 134 likes. Don’t get me started on the squats. She doesn’t like photos of her when she isn’t ready, when her face is the one we see in the mornings, when she can’t find her keys, or when her phone is silent and black and asleep and dead and she has to wait fidgeting in that space so close to oblivion. They put titanium rods in her back when she was eleven to correct the scoliosis. She used to walk around like a black Quasimodo: loved and gorgeous. The metal worked to undo the snaked spine, only a little pain and constipation from the meds to whip her back straight. Afterward, there came new clothes, new friends, new hobbies, one after another on a conveyor belt, along with the chance to document it all. Her happiness was electric, blinking—a ding, ding, ding, ding. Disappointment is oily; it has hair and musk and cracked lipstick. Her mother never spoke at the graduation, just faded away into the crowd per the court order. They say scoliosis is common in obese girls, the weight on their bird-like skeletons is too much. My lil sister/niece/granddaughter/baby cousin was popular: 117 hearts for feeding ice cream to a puppy, 64 lols for flipping off the president, 216 likes for a poolside bikini pose at sunset. There are never enough. Of course the monsters came, the trolls with their emoji fangs shooting projectile venom of envy and disgust. We were afraid she would choke to death on the poison like the white girls on TV, hang from closet doors, bleed out into tubs, but my lil sister/niece/granddaughter/baby cousin never even said a fuck you, just kept on. When your mother punches you in the chest for reasons too small to see, the rest of the world has a hard time hurting you more. So she smiles into her phone, where smiles are brightest, into the light, the wires, the electricity of us who have become everything to her, because in the machine there is no blood, no bone, and no fat.