I Write to Move// When the Body Can No Longer Be Still

"Obedient Girls Know How to Sit Still"

***

There is only one photo of me with my bike. The pink wheels are barely blackened with dirt. The ribbons on the handle bars are still intact. The training wheels, still on. I’m sitting on the bike in front of my building, pretending to be going somewhere. The cracked cement beneath the still-life pedals will ensure that I never make it to the corner.

***

My grandmother had been against the idea from moment I took a pencil and circled the three-speed in the big fat book Toy’s R’ Us put out every Christmas. I left circles etched in ten pages deep that year. She tried to point to other things. Metal things were dangerous. Soft dolls filled with cotton and topped with sweet smelling blonde curls were safe. Books with happy boys and girls holding Jesus’ hand were safer. She tried to guide my pencil in the direction of the‘better’ gifts. I told her a gift was only a gift if it was something that recipient wanted. She tried to tell me that obedient girls did what they were told. Our hands were almost the same size.

***

In the picture, I have on red denim shorts and a white spaghetti string tank top. A basket stands watch and the sky is the shade of baby blue you only see in August when the clouds look like the inside of baby dolls you split open because you wanted to see if they looked like the girls in your science textbook. You’re sad and relieved that there’s no blood to clean up, but you can’t deal with being lied to so you draw a skeletal system and a heart using dried up markers. You think everything should have bones and should bleed like you.

***

I don’t remember which crack in the pavement gripped the front wheel. There was only the pressure of the handle bar pressed against the left side of my rib cage and the burn of the bike chain on my calf. Blood slid down my right arm like melting ice-cream. Everything felt hot, when my grandmother yelled at my mother from the window. This was her fault. This was my fault. Someone pulled out a piece of clear bottle glass out of my elbow and my mother checked for major veins. Then she checked my legs. My elbow would be fine, but my legs were down the road to ruin and nobody liked girls with scars on their legs. We’d have to rub cocoa butter and oil and pray that these would fade.

***

My legs and arms out grew the scars. The bike collected dust on the top of a home-made shelf, until my brother was tall enough to reach the pedals. It didn’t matter to him that it was pink so long as he could move. He took off the training wheels and made it all the way to park across the street. I sat on the stoop and watched him grow against the bike. When his legs got too long, they got him a new one, a beautiful black thing that could go six speeds faster. My grandmother went on about courting danger and pointed to me. My mother and step father bought my brother a helmet. Elliot wore it for two weeks.

***

When my brother went into my room and took my things without asking, or broke something, or hurt my feelings, I’d take a knife and drain the air out of his tires. If I had to feel the pain of powerlessness, then so did he.