Tracey Stein is a Clinical Psychotherapist specializing in trauma. She is extremely passionate about helping survivors find their voice and believes writing to be one of the most effective ways to do this. Tracey writes primarily poetry and nonfiction. She lives in Metro Detroit with her husband, two children, and three dogs. She writes to stay sane. She writes to keep breathing.
In the passenger seat of the car I feel my mind spin and jolt
like on one of the rides they are working so hard to construct for this weekend’s fair.
The rides that my father always says are put up way too quickly,
and couldn’t be safe at all.
Until the day he stood me in front of the mirror I had never
thought about the way I looked.
I mean, I had thought about how I wanted my hair and what earrings to wear,
but I had never thought about how my body looked.
That it had a look at all.
He stood behind me in the pale-yellow fluorescent glow of the bathroom light,
his arms gently turning my shoulders to the side until my body
followed his lead and became half of his.
“Just stand normally,” he said.
I waited still until his hand appeared and rested gently on my stomach,
his other hand joining flat
on the back pocket of the soccer shorts I was still wearing from the day’s game.
“Watch” he said with the concentration he often had while reading and it took me
a couple of tries to get his attention.
Slowly, he pressed his hands into my body, pushing my stomach in and my butt flat
turning what was once an “S” into as straight a line as he could muster.
“See?” He said proudly, “That’s better.”
This morning, just out of the shower, I caught my profile in the mirror
and saw the same.
The breasts I have now help with the stomach, but the butt still rounds.
I placed my hands on my body and tried to push myself in the same way
my father did -
employ my spine to grab the parts that stick out and order them closer.
Flatter. Skinnier. Leaner. Bonier.
Call it whatever you want, just pull it all in and make me straight.
See, that’s better.
The fair will be bustling tonight.
Popcorn and cotton candy will coat the evening air heavy in scent–
intoxicating the sticky children begging their parents for just a few more tickets.
The rides will be in full operation – a line twenty deep waiting for their turn
to be yanked and twirled and dizzied.
Resting my head back on the cool leather of the car I can hear all of it
and distinguish none of it.
The noise, the laughter, the screaming all collide into one loud roar.
I fear my chance to make sense of any of this flew away with the smoke
from the joint the ride’s ticket collector smoked behind the dumpster
right before his shift.
The sweet smelling evidence proving that my father was probably right.
I rest my hand on my stomach.
To have been put together too quickly,
just couldn’t be safe at all.