Carmen Maria Machado
I am in Chicago, in dark tunnels. I'm meeting up with a girl I know
from high school who I haven't seen in five years.
I wait for her in the street, in the snow. She barrels through the
empty road, greets me with a hug. She is sweet and forceful, like
chocolate with a sharp shot of liquor in the center. She swings my bags
into the trunk of the car and drives fast.
She could be anyone, I think. She could be a crazy person. I only know
her from high school, it's been so many years, it's been so
She shows me her apartment. It's old and someone downstairs is painting
so it smells like turpentine. She shows me the crown molding, opens the
windows even though it's January. She takes my bags from my shoulders
and asks me where I want to sleep.
I watch her change the sheets on her bed, laying down a quilt, a
comforter. She pours me a glass of water and places it on the overnight
table. The perfect hostess.
The bathroom has high ceilings and a claw-footed bathtub. I could do
this, I think. I could date a woman, move to an old apartment in
Chicago, learn to navigate around hot iron radiators in the dark. I
brush my teeth so hard my gums bleed. The tank top I have on is
transparent and through it I can see my dark nipples, the curve of my
breasts. My breasts are the only thing I like about me. Not
just my body, me. I should diet. I can't diet, I'm a feminist. I should
change my name. I should sleep for a very long time.
I walk back to the bedroom in the dark. After she falls asleep, she
turns and flops her arm over my stomach.
I sleep. I do not dream. I don't want to be rude.
Carmen Maria Machado has work in or coming from The American Reader, Five Chapters, Indiana Review and others. She lives in Iowa City.
Detail of photo art on main page courtesy
of Craig A. Rodway.
Read CM's postcard.
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