When I was eight, my uncle had fallen trying to climb out of his bath tub. He had been fifty. He had broken his hip bone and the doctors had later discovered a fast growing bone tumor in his femur. Uncle Festus had died only a month after the fall. His wife had removed all the bath tubs, three of them in their house and tiled the floors of the bathroom in the same plane. She said it was safer; there would be no falling and no osteosarcomas. My mother bathes herself sitting in the bath tub these days and takes an entire minute getting out of one after her baths. I don’t particularly enjoy baths or showers or changing clothes; anything that lets me see my body.
I like to think of my body as a country or maybe a small territory, with gates and highlands and lowlands and forests. My body is a country at war, a monument of many disagreements, some as simple as my brain and my stomach warring over midnight snacking every consecutive night and others more complicated like my stomach refusing to be sucked in when I have to fit into an old dress or my body ballooning miles away from model dress sizes. Stretch marks mark zones where my own flesh has given way to the stress of constant stretching to fit everything I put in my body, the yellow streaks like unfading war scars.
My mother says our bodies are God’s temple but I wonder whether he would like to live in mine, I don’t think God really likes “shabby chic” and so I cleanse myself for the Lord. After every unworthy meal, I send a messenger down my throat to call back evil, send it rushing back out until I feel empty, washed clean and turned inside out.
“Must keep God’s temple clean”
Tolutope and her friends sneak glances at me in school and I know they wonder how I can live with my thighs touching so often. They wonder how I live and breathe with more friction within me than most machines, how my stomach rolls over my jeans and I become nothing better than an English muffin when I sit down. I don’t blame them; I wonder myself how I live this life of mine. Sometimes, I think maybe I should fall and break something. Something more important than bones. Maybe, my spirit. Unless my body has already broken my spirit.
When I raise my arm to rub lotion into my skin, I pretend not to notice the jiggle, how the arm has become lazier than a pregnant goat in hot sunshine. I wonder if my mother really doesn’t notice or if she simply pretends not to notice everything. I wonder if she doesn’t see the uneaten meals or the laxatives I leave lying on the dining table or how many hours a day I spend in the toilet. My mother runs a modeling agency and the irony hits me like a thousand waves at once every day.
My body is not the body of a goddess. It is lost and confused. My body is unsure of how old it is and how long it has been in use because it is so poorly managed and sometimes I apologize to it; say I’m sorry I haven’t been good to you, I’m sorry I haven’t taken better care of you. I’m sorry I haven’t loved you. I’m sorry for the times I set you on fire and the times I cut through you to be sure I was a living breathing thing. I’m sorry that I haven’t been strong enough to be worthy or deserving or to make you worthy and deserving. I’m sorry that all I have are “I’m sorry’s”.
My body is a country and its leader is not enough.