ONE OF THOSE GIRLS WHO LIVED, ONE OF THOSE GIRLS WHO LIVED, 2004

EXODUS OKTAVIA BROWNLOW

One of The Girls Who Lived/collective noun/a girl who is alive, who has stayed alive, but who has not done much living.

One of Those Girls Who Lived /collective noun/ a girl who has lived for a short time, or for a long time, who has done a considerable amount of living. 

*

When we think about it now, at its heart, it was not done only for the aesthetic.  

Because the shallow, criss cross lines on our wrists are not just a cry for help but a vibe. An exclusive beauty-mark. And all the best protagonists in life come from tragic backgrounds. We see it all the time in the YA that we read and the greatest movies that make us dream of something better. We invoked that tragedy, because, wasn’t that what it was all about? 

Being a teenager. 

And damn-it, was it really so much to ask for our Movie of the Month moments. Because there was so much we didn’t have control of but maybe we could give ourselves a few tears to rest in the palms of our hands. 

Maybe one day when we would be such-and-such year’s old, we would remember how we had wanted to die, but instead we somehow found a way to live. 

*

In 2004, we wanted to attach ourselves to hardships, and humiliation, and misfortune, because those are the things worth remembering, for people to come up to us one day, and say, “Hey, weren’t you one of those girls who lived?” 

We attacked ourselves for our future daughters. So that when we are much older girls and they yell at us about not understanding anything at all, we can yell back that we really do. We will rub our daughters’ hair down, pat their backs, and let them cry into the crooks of our necks knowing that we very damn well do understand.

*

We beat ourselves to work against the boredom of books, and musty boys. 

We invoked, because we didn’t want to be ordinary, and ugly, and forgotten. 

We tried to dumb ourselves down for those musty boys, so that all that we became were breasts and brown eyes—and look at these eyes, musty-boy, aren’t they oh so innocent, and wouldn’t you just love to love me back, musty-boy? 

There’s a difference between being one of the girls who lived, and ones of those girls who lived. 

To be one of those girls who lived, is to be immortal.

*

We tried to starve ourselves. 

An apple for lunch. 

Sunflower seeds. 

A Lean Cuisine for dinner. 

And did you know that if you crush up a bag of Hot Cheetos it looks like there’s way more food inside than there actually is? 

After all, there are jeans to fit into, girl.

Dresses.

And right now, our bodies are baby-fat-squishy, and not woman-sexy-curvy. 

We all are a woman now, too.

*

We tried to cut our wrists.  

An unfolded paper clip for the veins. 

A sleeve rolled all the way up. 

And us, and did you know that you are too much of a loser to make the scratches deep enough to last? 

After all, this aesthetic isn’t easy to obtain, girl.

Press. 

And right now, our wrists are smooth-silky-clean, and not deep-scratchy-bloody.

We all are in pain too, now.

*

We tried to trash our dolls. 

Because we now want to become the doll, and all that practice with combing their hair, and dressing them up, and putting on their makeup was really all just for us one day. 

And our legs aren’t as long as theirs, and they’re riddled with scratches and burns, but that’s okay.

And our training bras barely have anything to train, but soon they will, so it’s important to get used to the feel of them anyway.

After all, there are husbands to catch one day, girl.

Kitchens to clean, and laundry to fold. 

And don’t you want to be a pretty-pristine-wife and not a rough-bushy-wild one? 

*

We tried to perm our hair.

Because it is the right time to start looking more grown, and the wrong time to presently look so young. So, we throw away the ponytails, and the pigtails, and hair-bubble berets. 

And when we come back from summer break, we will judge all the girls who still wear those things, because, girl, didn’t you know that it was time to grow up

And we will tell them to not worry, we will tell them that they will make a comeback, so save all those things for when we are much older girls. 

For when the world demands of us that youth again, because nobody likes an old girl, and ponytails make us look so very sweet.

*

We tried to welcome our periods. 

Because we wanted to know what it’s like to bleed from places other than our wrists. 

Will it hurt? Will it be sticky? 

How bad is a cramp anyway? 

We do not want to be the only one who is not yet woman, not yet able to carry life inside her soon.

But what if it is true? 

After all, there are pads to buy, girl. 

Tampons, if you are one of those girls. 

Or both.

And right now, our panties are spick-and-span white, and not splotchy-polka-dotted red.

*

In a fantasy, where we are neither one of the girls who lived, or one of those girls who lived, 

we are just a girl who is good as she already is. 

And these girls? 

They are not sad. They do not give a damn about being boring protagonists. 

They are not dumb. 

They rock their afro-puffs, and they fill their bodies with the food that they need, and like. 

They do not cut themselves, but they wish to keep all the goodness of them inside of themselves. 

They are not tragic, and they do not want tragedy. 

They like happiness. 

*

These girls don’t want to be a woman, yet. These girls don’t want to change, yet.

*

Away from the fantasy, we don’t want to be alone more than we don’t want to be anything else. We don’t want to be alone more than we want to just be a girl who is good as she already is.  

Just to say that we had lived. Just to say we had been one of those girls who lived.  

Exodus Oktavia Brownlow is a Blackhawk, Mississippi native whose writing aesthetic includes purposeful horror, character-driven fiction, and nonfiction writing that aims to create a healthier world for us all. She is a graduate of Mississippi Valley State University with a B.A in English, and Mississippi University for Women with an MFA in Creative Writing. Exodus is published or has upcoming work with Electric Literature, Barren Magazine, X-Ray Literary Magazine, Booth, King Ludd’s Rag, Jellyfish Review, Parentheses Journal, and more. Exodus has a healthy adoration for the color green.

TINY SPILLS
  • Tabs open on your screen right now:
    Youtube, Google Docs, Gmail and Etsy!
  • Your writer crush:
    Kiese Laymon, my God. If you’ve never read any of his work, I really encourage you to do so. His craftsmanship of essay/memoir? *Chefs Kiss*
  • Favorite space to write:
    I love a good couch. Feet folded underneath, or crossed like a pretzel. Pillows. Blankets. And The Food Network playing quietly in the background.
  • Guilty literary pleasure:
    Judith McNaught romance novels because sometimes it’s nice to read something where the happy ending is guaranteed.
  • Character (TV, book, movie) you most identify with:
    Janie Starks from Their Eyes Were Watching God.