“Most people don’t realize that two large pieces of coral painted brown, and attached to his skull with common wood screws can make a child look like a deer.”
–Kurt Cobain, I Hate Myself and I Want to Die
I have a misshapen body. I know, I know, I should love myself. But society is completely fucked, and there’s more urgent shit to worry about. At least that’s what I tell myself. My Russian swim trainer, Bella, told me when I was a kid, “People in your society hate themselves, Theodora. They’re taught to despise their bodies.” I knew what she was talking about. Everything in my life from TVs to billboards told me my body was wrong, and that everything would be fine if I’d just buy the right deodorant, eat the right cereal, or wear the right fucking shoes. I spent my entire life trying to block that bullshit out.
Jack said I was born in the ocean, but he never said more. I was a water craving geek, and geeks like me live inside our heads; we ignore our bodies anyway. So I dealt with it by not dealing with it.
Looking in the mirror, my eye is drawn to these freakishly wide shoulders, a broad torso made to look even wider by my large breasts: a swimmer’s back exaggerated by a little waist and generous hips. “Proud mama hips,” Bella called them. And after years of swimming, my thighs and biceps are muscled and large. I look like a cartoon.
I stand there and wonder, who the hell are you? Where did you come from? My body looks alien; not the Theodora in my mind. Bella sniffed when I said these things. She’d say, “You have strong arms and legs, smooth olive skin, thick, healthy hair. You will never be a great swimmer, but great is overrated. You’re a big, fast, beautiful girl, pchelka.” I didn’t buy it, I was never anyone’s little bee.
I have too many freckles; my checks are covered with them. You don’t even see my nose and lips; melanin spots dominate. And my eyebrows are always trying to grow together into one. I’d curse out loud when I tweezed them; but it was a losing battle. I gave up. My eyes are my redeeming feature. Jack called them Seven-Up bottle green; they are large and almond shaped.
When I turn profile to the mirror, my belly sticks out too much. My hair, which grows like kudzu, needs to be cut again; the damn braid is always in my way. In this evening light I look like an unfinished charcoal sketch, distorted, out of proportion. Dark smudges for my brows and pubes, and that braid snaking over my shoulder, curling at my hip, impossible to brush out, bound so it won’t escape.
My hair is dark but not flat black like Michael’s. Even right after he shaves his face and bald head are a shadow against his pale Irish complexion; like his hair absorbs the light. Together we look interracial.
Dirty blond, that’s me, with a tinge of red. Irish? Greek? Russian? I have no idea; Jack changed the subject when I asked. I have no real birth certificate or social security number, only forgeries. During a rebellious phase, before I realized there was nothing to rebel against, that Jack would let me do anything I wanted, I shaved off my hair. Once gone I noticed a mark on the back of my head. At first I thought it was a birthmark, an oval port wine stain about the size of a lemon. But I snapped a picture with my phone and made a Photoshop enlargement. The characters look vaguely oriental, but I can’t figure out what they mean. They may be the key to my past, but so far, Internet searches lead nowhere. If Jack knew anything, he wouldn’t tell me. And since we lived such a transient life, there are no records. I remain a misshapen mystery. I have that one hidden mark and a small scar the shape of a mouse that I can’t remember getting. But, only my most intimate relations will ever get a glimpse my little mouse.
The entire story so far can be found on the Theodora Smith page