by Diana Clark
“She is entire. She makes herself wide / so nothing can hold her; she holds all inside.”
-Eighteen, by Lauren K. Alleyne
After the assault, Nessa’s told lots of things. Things like, “You’re too nice, people think you’re flirting” and “You’re too pretty” and “How did you not see that coming?” Nessa doesn’t know how to be cruel. She didn’t see anything coming. And so she is left with the only thing she has the ability to change.
The first thing she does is shave her head. Nessa’s hair is mermaid-long. She cannot afford this anymore. It is too risky. So Nessa buys an electric buzzer. It feels cold in her hand, the silver metal heavier than she expected. She does not cry as her hair falls to the ground, curl after dark curl, her mother’s voice at the back of her head from when she was a child and asked for a pixie cut. “You don’t want that, baby; men like girls with long hair.” Once she is finished, she runs her palms over her scalp. It is fuzzy, peach-like. Nessa enjoys the way it feels. She has not enjoyed anything since his hands, on her and inside her, the ones that took everything but the word no.
Once, when Nessa was younger, she liked a boy who looked like the moon. Her mom did not like this, either. “Nessa, baby, I know he is funny and I know he is smart and I know he loves you like Jupiter, but if he cannot take care of himself, then how can he take care of you?” This was when Nessa’s pizza turned into smoothies and her ice cream turned into kale. And this is the most important part, she thinks now, the most important thing she must do.
Nessa orders takeout. She orders takeout from every store in her area that delivers. An extra-large pizza with all the toppings, a foot-long Italian hoagie, a thirty-two-ounce oyster pail of chicken lo mein, a bread bowl of penne vodka, a lamb gyro with extra tzatziki sauce, a bacon cheeseburger with fries, and a chicken chimichanga slathered in queso. She replaces her liters of water with liters of soda. She packs her freezer with cartons of ice cream. She gets out of bed only to use the bathroom and answer the door.
Nessa does not realize she is still at risk until several weeks later. How the delivery man lingers. She is wearing her robe, one of the only things left that she can still make fit. The man in her doorway grins. A different kind of hungry. “I like a girl with meat on her bones,” he says. Nessa goes cold. Looks at his hands. They are different from the ones that crawled into her skin, peeled back her flesh and sucked at the pit, but they are still there, still waiting, still tap-tap-tapping on the cardboard box, waiting for her to blush or to smile or maybe just waiting for the fear. Nessa doesn’t know what to say, so she asks if he’s remembered her side of ranch and if the breadsticks are extra cheesy.
She must not stop, Nessa realizes. The door has been shut. The man has left, and Nessa knows she must keep eating.
German chocolate cake, banana bread pudding, Nutella-stuffed cookies, ice cream sandwiches. She eats until it hurts and then eats until it doesn’t.
One morning she wakes up, covered in plaster and dirt. Around her, neighbors gasp, scream. Children gawk and point, their mouths unabashedly open. Mothers pull them away or cover their eyes. Nessa blinks. Her brain is clouded with sweet and salty. She wonders briefly if she is still asleep. The morning air is cool on her face and smells of honeysuckles. I’ve become too big for my house, Nessa realizes. She sits up slowly, brushes the dust off of her peach-fuzz head.
Nessa walks through the neighborhood, careful not to bump into houses. It is not long at all before a man in a top hat approaches her, eyes round with want. “You there!” he shouts.
Nessa looks down.
“Yes, you! Do you want to join my circus? You’re bigger than an elephant, you are. Taller, too. You and me, we could make a fortune. Whaddya say, kid?”
But Nessa doesn’t want to be revered. She does not want to be looked at in wonder. She wants people to never want anything from her again. I must get bigger, she thinks. I must become impossible to hold.
Nessa eats. She raids one of the better movie theaters, sticks her hand through the roof like a child with a cookie jar. She sucks on the plastic pipes that lead to the soda fountain machine. She takes the rotating hot dogs, the nachos with their fake cheese, the soft-baked pretzels, the entire popcorn machine. She eats until she fits comfortably inside the city’s football stadium, cradled there like a tub.
She watches the news on the giant TV. Sees herself. In the sky, multiple helicopters. The reporter is saying they’re making a special tranquilizer, just for her, one as big as a rocket ship, one that will put her down forever. I can handle that, she thinks. Give me bullets as big as jet skis, swords bigger than tree trunks, a cocktail of the deadliest poisons. I’ll take anything, Nessa thinks. Anything but his hands.
Diana Clark is an elephant enthusiast and an MFA fiction recipient from UNCW, with special
love for LGBTQIA+ literature, magical realism, and sci-fi. Their work has appeared or is
forthcoming in Crab Fat Magazine, Peach Mag, The Passed Note, Heavy Feather Review,
Longleaf Review, and more. In 2015, their piece "Signed" was nominated for a Pushcart
Prize. You can find them reading about pirates in Wilmington, North Carolina with their cat,