I wore girl’s pants, even when I was still telling people I was a boy. I had lots of different colors, reds and purples and yellows, all clingwrap tight against my legs.
The cut of these pants always made my penis very obvious. It wasn’t really my intention to present my dick to the world, just an inconvenient side effect I did my best to shrug off and ignore. I spent a lot of time consciously avoiding looking down. If I couldn’t see anything, it was easier to pretend no one else did either.
Toward the end of my time in colored pants, I had a friend who was very touchy.
They liked to poke at my crotch with one finger.
“I found it!”
I would laugh and they would laugh and our friends would laugh because it was funny.
They asked privately once, after we had known each other for a while, if what they had done was ok. My response was automatic.
“Of course. It’s nothing” and a shrug.
My friend Nicholas liked to hit me in the back of the head. It was a joke, I think, just a part of our dynamic. I would say something stupid and he would hit me. It was sort of a slapstick routine. Sometimes my other friends would join in, but mostly, the two of us were the comedic pair.
I’m not sure exactly how the joke started. I don’t think it was something we ever talked about. I don’t remember the first time we played it out, the first time his hand met the back of my head. It just sort of fell into place, perfectly shaped for its slot in our lives. It hurt when he hit me, but I would laugh and he would laugh and our friends would laugh because it was funny.
I shared a Facebook account with Alan for the second half of my senior year of high school. He got access to my account one day, and I couldn’t figure out how to get him out. I’m not sure exactly how he did it. I don’t think I ever told him my password, but we had been friends for a long time, and he knew me very well, so maybe he just guessed.
It was kind of fun to be only one half of an online persona. There was plenty of collective confusion from our friends that we had a good time playing off of. Who was this, really? Who was saying what? Why was this happening? We always answered as vaguely as we could.
When Alan decided that it was time for him to leave my account, he left a mess behind him. While a lesser artist would have just left an obvious post about sucking dick, that wasn’t enough for Alan. He had a much more powerful vision.
He updated my profile picture to a black and white photo of me without a shirt on. The top two buttons of my pants were unbuttoned, the waistband of my underwear just visible. I had a robe draped around me and lay splayed on one side like a classical model, a single nipple revealed, staring off into the distance. He changed my name to “Prepared Anus”. This was the Viking funeral of our joint persona.
I was slow to take any of it down. I had become used to being part of a collective whole, to not having full control over my own presentation. I was used to Alan putting things back up when I took them down. I was used to our collective responsibility for the content we shared, for the shape of an identity that was not quite either of the two of us, but acted as a stand in for both. But now Alan was gone, and this image was only mine, no longer an amorphous shadow of two people, just a bare outline of me.
The photo was fairly easy to take down, but Facebook wouldn’t let me change my name back, because I had already changed it too many times before. I eventually sent them a picture of my ID, and my legal name was put back on my account, but Alan’s work stayed up for three or four days. I left an empty frame where my face was supposed to be for a while, unsure if I should claim the space as mine again.
Online detritus of Alan’s prank continued to float to the surface as the years went by. Services linked to Facebook were slow to reflect the fixes I made, and so years later, the calendar on my computer still marked June 26th as “Prepared Anus’ Birthday”. I almost prefer it to logging into my account and seeing my legal name. No matter how many times I ask the website, that name will not budge. According to them, Alan was the last person allowed to change it.
An analogue computer is a device that uses its innate physical properties to model a system or problem and make predictions. For example, a system of gears might be used to translate the speed a crank turns to the movement of a needle on a dial. The computer preforms a calculation automatically, without thought or process, without manipulating a single number, based solely on the very facts of its existence: the sizes, weights and shapes of its components, and their relationships to one another. The gears know nothing about anything other than themselves, but correctly arranged, they can reveal the truths of the universe that made them, the rising and falling of the tides, the laws of flight, the steady motions of the stars we look up to each night.
I was twelve the first time a stranger grabbed my ass. I was in gym class at my middle school, facing the wall and talking to my friends. A girl walked up behind me, grabbed my ass, almost casually, and kept walking. She walked around the gym in a slow circle. I looked at her and she waved. My friends were losing it, bent over laughing. She waved again.
There was another day after gym class where she grabbed me and hung on.
“Is that your man?” someone asked.
“Yes he is!” she said.
I didn’t really know what to say, or how to get her off of me. I did my best to walk away, managing a stilted sort of crab walk. I think she eventually let go, but it’s hard to remember. I don’t think I ever knew her name.
Devon was one of my longest friendships. We met when we were six and remained close until we were twenty. We were always a pair, but I don’t know if I would say that we were really equals. Devon was always a leader in the groups we joined, always choosing the direction that was ahead, and I was his support, someone to carry out plans and prop him up when he needed me. He was my closest friend for most of my life.
I first met Devon because he tackled me in the sandbox. I liked to dig holes and build castles when I was a little kid, and he liked to knock things down. I would run from him on the playground, but he would always catch me. He was stronger and faster.
When Devon caught up to me, he would hug me as tightly as he could. Sometimes his arms would circle my ribs, sometimes my neck. I often couldn’t breath very well. Once he had me, he would take me where he wanted me, and I would play the game he wanted to play.
I eventually learned not to run, and developed a position I could shape my body into that would keep me as safe as possible. I would stand still, move my shoulders up as high as they could go, and drop my neck, pulling my head into my body life a turtle. I would fold my arms in front of my face and just wait. I became friends with him because there wasn’t anything else for me to do.
Alan liked to poke me while we were in class together. Sometimes it was pretty hard, so it actually hurt, and I would want to say something or fall over onto my desk, but I was in class, and I had to stay still at my desk. If I thought the teacher wasn’t looking, I sometimes let myself squirm.
Sometimes he would slide his shoes off and tickle me with his feet. I could always smell his socks on me afterwards.
Once, he brought a pen to school with a smooth metal cap. He sat behind me in class that day and pulled his desk extra close to mine. I could hear him breathing behind me. He slid the pen slowly, gently across my arm. I shivered a little. Without lifting the pen, he traced my arm to my shoulder, up and down my spine and around my neck, long soft messages in cursive. I didn’t make any sound, hoping I could discourage him, but I felt like shivering, felt like squirming, felt like letting my voice out. I faced forward, as still as I could make myself, and pretended I wasn’t there while he traced circles around my nipples with the cold metal cap.
One of the earliest known analog computers is the Antikythera mechanism, an ancient device found submerged off the coast of Greece. Experts date the device somewhere between 2104 and 2222 years old, depending on who you ask.
The mechanism was composed of a complicated series of interlocking brass gears, connected to seven needles, each corresponding to one of the seven astral bodies known to the ancient Greeks: the sun, the moon, and the five inner planets. The device had additional readouts for two calendar systems. With no technology more complex than connected pieces of metal, the device was able to pinpoint the locations of all seven bodies in their orbits, and to track the phases of the moon.
The remains of the Antikythera mechanism are scattered and broken, but modern astronomers and archeologists have proposed several arrangements for the mechanism’s gearing. The latest reconstruction was built in 2012, but new proposals for the mechanism’s true gearing will probably continue to emerge for many years to come.
I was fifteen the first time a stranger grabbed my penis. There was someone new standing with my friends. He looked up and made eye contact with me, walked over and grabbed my crotch with one hand. My friends all lost it. He winked and then walked back over to them. I didn’t say anything. I joined my laughing friends and positioned myself as far away from him as possible. I made a mental note that he was another person I would have to keep watch for. One of my friends ended up dating him.
I know this happened but I can’t remember where. It was in the cafeteria, it was in the hallway, it was outside, waiting for the bus. Was anyone there but us?
I can remember his name, and I can remember some things about his face, but I can’t quite put them all together in a way that feels right. Glasses with thin frames. Big teeth, a little sharp at the edges. Short dyed hair. No matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to find his cheeks.
I know he was taller than me, or at least it feels that way. I can’t remember looking up at him, it just feels like I should.
Some of my gears have missing teeth, broken teeth, the ghosts of teeth. I hear them sometimes, grinding and creaking against each other, opening and closing hinges at the edges of forgetting.
Sacha liked to make jokes about raping me. It was something I got used to very quickly, just a part of our dynamic. He would slip them into conversation very casually, and I quickly learned not to look up when a joke peered out of his lips, trying to decide if it was safe to leave its cave. Sometimes I would play along. It’s hard to remember any of the things he said in much detail, because they happened so often. They have been worn away in my brain by routine. Sacha telling me he was going to rape me was a part of life, the same as taking the bus in the morning. Because it was so common, it was normal, and because it was normal, it became more and more common. The words knew it was safe to leave his mouth, and so they became bolder and bolder, patrolling an ever-expanding territory until there was almost nothing else he talked to me about.
Sacha was clumsy and awkward, skeleton thin with cold, clammy hands with long thin fingers. He wore a tweed suit jacket and a stupid looking hat almost every day. His breath smelled like stale air freshener. He talked at me extensively in person and online. I spent a lot of time ignoring him.
We should make out for Reina totally just for Reina no other reason
Do you like me
Are we actually friends?
I wanna call you a friend
I don’t know who hates me or not anymore
I hate you
I love you
Love is stupid
too bad it fucking rapes me
I hate it
You’re not looking
means I can say anything
or you’re offline
and I’m alone
While we waited for the busses to come after school, he would try to grope me. I learned to stand with my back to a tree so that less of my body was available to him. Sometimes Caz would play my knight, saving the damsel in distress. Sometimes they were too tired, or they weren’t there, or they just let it happen. I didn’t like fighting back for myself. He was too persistent, and eventually he would always make it past hands and no’s, and then it felt worse because I had tried. It was easier to let it become normal, let it become routine and forgettable, leave my body behind at the tree while my brain wandered for a while. I don’t think there’s a place on my body that Sacha never touched.
I think he genuinely wanted to be my friend. It’s hard to understand why he did what he did, except when I remember my friends laughing behind him. Entitlement to my body was always a collective ritual, incomplete without friends to tell me what a slut I was afterwards.
The routine falls away when I remember Sacha, dull and flat in its repetition. Moments blend together into summary, flat disks full of empty teeth, too smooth and slippery to catch. The exceptions always stick out the best.
“Do you want to go exploring?” he asked me one day. “I promise I won’t try anything. Best behavior and shit.”
We walked for a long time together in the woods, following a squirrel with a thin tail through fallen logs and poison ivy. The trees were tall and straight, and light fell between them in crisp, even pools, smooth as skipping stones. He told me about a girl he had a crush on as we climbed a particularly steep part of a hill, our hands clutching low saplings to keep our balance. I told him he should talk to her. When I looked back, he blushed a little and looked down at his feet. It was a nice day, warm sun on crisp orange pine needles.
I found an old Facebook chat.
i was molested on a bus today.
i don’t know
it was really crowded and everyone was packed
really close together
and then i just felt a hand on my ass
and i couldn’t turn around
or do anything about it
What the hell
i guess i’m just that rapeable
U r extremely rapeable
I still don’t remember the details. It feels like I must have made it up, but the chats are there. I feel something in my stomach every time I read the word “rapeable”.
Internal Mounting Plate
The Antikythera mechanism calculated the positions of planets based on a geocentric model, as if they orbited the Earth, rather than the sun. Each planet was assumed to revolve around a point in space, the epicenter, which in turn revolved around the Earth, an orbiting orbit.
This model has since been disproven, and we now know that the movements of the planets depend not on us, but something much bigger, an enormous sun that pulls us just as it pulls them. Despite this major gap in the Greeks’ understanding, however, the mechanism manages to predict the planet’s positions quite accurately. The heliocentric model, shown above, represents the planet’s position (P) as the sum of two rotating vectors—the planet’s position relative to the epicenter (EP) and the epicenter’s position relative to the planet (ET). When the sun is placed at the center instead of the earth, we find that these vectors have real meanings: the first is the planet’s average revolution around the sun, while the second is the negative of the Earth’s orbit. Even with all the wrong assumptions, the Greeks were able to find the correct answers.
remember when we were the same person
I should just make up a shitton of memories
and put in real ones somewhere
and see if you can guess
I’m not going to
I’m fucking lazy
I hate your guts
I should cut you open
take them out
stamp them flat
and hang dry them
feed them as jerky to some carnivorous animal
I could kill you
no one would notice the difference
Caz always wore bells. You could hear them coming way before you could see them, a small but sharp noise that cut through other people’s voices.
“I don’t understand why you don’t want to have sex. It’s not like what we’ve been doing already is very different.”
i just want to make out
and then suddenly you go for the dick
I don’t really understand that
there’s only so long you can moosh faces for
times call for action -__-
They liked to leave marks on me so that everyone knew I was private property. Little bruises and bite marks on my neck and arms and legs and soldiers. They were sometimes dark enough to last a couple weeks, turning from black to purple to yellow. My mother saw me coming out of the shower once, sat me down and asked who had been hitting me. I had to explain, looking down with hot cheeks, that they were just love bites.
Once they bit me too hard, and my skin broke. I didn’t want to go to the hospital, so instead I spent an hour flushing it with hydrogen peroxide over and over again. I wasn’t mad at them. They needed something to bite, and I was there.
“We’re measuring your dick.”
“We’re measuring your dick. People want to know.”
I remember the places we had sex much better than what actually happened there.
On the floor of a school bathroom. It says women on the door but it’s single use. The gray tile floor is cold and the tiling on the walls is tan and ugly. There is a mirror above the sink with the long neck, but it is too high for me to see anything. The back of my head is rested against the toilet and it is uncomfortable, my neck is bent a little wrong and moving bumps my head into the porcelain again and again. I have a class that meets in the next room over.
“I can’t believe we’re doing this”
I cover my eyes with my hands and I am not sure why. When I finally put my hands down Caz smirks. Everything looks dirty under the not quite bright yellow light bulb fixed in the ceiling.
This is the part of the lake where everyone swims but no one is supposed to. There’s the street, then a low black fence with signs that say though, then a gentle slope down then short concrete steps and a stub of a dock that leans against the fence in the winter until it is just another bump in the snow. There is a tree over the dock and right next to that, a tall wooden fence that marks the rest of the lake as someone else’s property. There are gray benches that are plastic, made out of spaced rectangles so they feel like wood, and at a bend in the road, there is one streetlamp. It looks old fashioned, black iron with sloped glass faces at the top. It can see us, even if there’s no one else around. It was such a nice night and I just wanted to sit on the bench and get bit by mosquitos for a while.
Hands pinned against the wall and my wrists are grinding into each other while they kiss me. The carpet is short and scratchy, the feeling of the ropes we had to climb in gym class when we were little, when we pulled long thin splinters out of our palms when we were done.
My body was under theirs and I wasn’t ready. My pants had gotten stuck when I tried to take them off, or maybe my hands got stuck. I tried to say wait, I tried to say I changed my mind but I felt my throat tighten and my cheek start to throb. I lay still, arms flat by my sides, eyes on the ceiling of my room. It was like someone had draped my body in a lead apron, like the doctors do before an x-ray.
I remember the ceiling best. White paint met blue-green at the corners. There was a small crack that sat directly above my head. I focused on the crack and let myself wonder what had happened there. Where had the fracture first begun? Had it grown from the right side or the left? Would the ceiling split in two one day, and leave the crack full of purple sky?
I stopped talking to my friends about sex pretty quickly. I told Devon what had happened and he got so excited, a pound on the back and over and over
“Good fucking shit, dude!”
“It’s soooo weird!”
“I just want to play with it.”
“Here, you can borrow this dress.”
Ill find you a trap thread
…how does do traps
not quite what i meant
i meant more like
how do traps do
what they do
how do boys do the pretty thing
…What do you mean?
…im not sure where
the fuck are the trap threads jesus christ
do you want to be a trap j*****n
…i dont think so
it seems too hard
Ca***** sent me this
“I don’t think anyone should tell him most traps are probably annoying attention whores.”
Was she talking about you?
What happens when two bodies that hate themselves find each other? What happens when two bodies that have never met another body meet each other, and neither really knows what it means that their robotics teacher wears skirts and long straight hair and an Adam’s apple, but they both know that they want to know what it is to be a body in between and here is another body and it has all the things I want and look, look it is ready to just give them all away?
This message is no longer available because it was identified as abusive or marked as spam
If I could buy you on etsy in a tiny glass bottle I would
They often asked me to take off my glasses when I was with them.
“Your eyes are so pretty.”
I would usually agree. The edges in the world would disappear, texture and depth replaced by flat regions of colors. I have trouble doing much without my glasses, things like doorknobs and faces and the ends of a bed slip away from me, and I have to spend a lot more time deciding where to put my feet. It was easier to sit still and let them look at me. It was easy to be pretty and still, pretty and quiet, lost in the indefinite world around me.
They loved marzipan, because it was beautiful and colorful and because it kept the shape they gave it when they squished it between their fingers.
I was always a thing when I was under them. We never talked while it was happening. Eventually I would stop moving, arms limp and eyes averted, eyes on the crack in the ceiling of my room, and they would continue, faster and harder, and sometimes when I would come back they would be done, and sometimes they wouldn’t.
“You’re not a virgin?” someone asked my first week in college.
“No,” I said.
“How was it?”
“It was ok.”
They looked at me for a while, head tilted slightly to the side.
“Are you sure you’re not gay?”
I think of Hephaestus and his golden women, their pictures in a storybook I had when I was young. I saw them through the mechanic’s eyes, shining figures made in the image of their god, the clicking legs and smooth features he could never have. I loved his story growing up.
The picture book never told me how he tried to rape Athena, how his blank faced women watched as she wiped his semen off her leg, forbidden to move by his placement of their gears.
An automaton is a body that sits still and does what it is told. A computer is a brain that does the same thing.
This is what I wrote a few months after we were done:
Year One of Three
You meet them after school. Something about them makes you nervous. Maybe it’s their fake glasses, maybe it’s the bells they wear on their belt loops. You can always hear them coming before you see them. It takes you forever to approach them. You talk about stupid things, like what music you like, school and old cartoons. They say you remind them of their sister. One day, you ask them why they stay at school so late. You have math team practice. They say they just don’t feel like going home. You ask them out on a hill behind the school. You feel tiny when you do it, like you’re doing something important.
They hold your hand between classes, and on the walks you take after school. You talk about stupid things, like why the sky is blue, and cheap fantasy novels with shirtless men on the covers. They tell you about how girls’ pants don’t have real pockets, and their best friend’s weird dad. You call them at night and spend too much time laughing about nothing.
It’s been a week. You take the train to Boston with their friends. Some of them do theater, some of them are in bands. None of them are on math team. You sit quietly while they talk to their friends on the way there. You follow them when they run through the fountain outside the Christian Scientist church. You take off your shoes and socks, but they keep theirs on. You laugh with their friends on the way back. You’re being too loud, and other people on the train glare at you, but you don’t care.
You tell your friends no you don’t spend all your time with them, and no you can’t hang out this weekend.
You go to the aquarium with them and spend forever looking at the eel hiding in the rocks. They’re much better at spotting it than you. You watch divers feed the sea turtles. They take pictures of the lettuce floating at the top of the tank with your phone. It looks like boats, they say, and the turtles look like islands. You nod your head, and don’t say anything back. You have trouble disagreeing with people.
You watch movies together. First you sing along with David Bowie in Labyrinth. Later you cringe as Choi Min-sik removes a man’s teeth with a hammer. They choose both movies. They know better than you.
It’s been a month. You sneak into their house, and kiss on their living room couch. They say not to worry, their mother always works late. You go downstairs, looking for a bathroom, and find a room full of dusty recording equipment. They close the door. They don’t answer your questions at first, they just look at you, eyes hard. You feel like they might tear you in half. They talks about important things, like the lump that wouldn’t stop growing in their father’s brain, and how their family changed when they were eight. You ask them what they mean. They tell you about visiting family in Beijing every summer, and how hard it is not to cry when their grandmother asks why her son hasn’t come with them this time.
At school, you learn the hill where you asked them out is where everyone goes to smoke when they cut class. You sneak into their house again. Their mouth leaves a small bruise on your neck.
You tell your mother about them. They don’t tell their mother about you.
You tell them to meet you by the lake at midnight. They laugh at you a little, say you’re overdramatic, but they smile, too. You throw rocks into the water and look at each other under a streetlamp. The bags under their eyes look larger this way. Maybe it’s just harder for the glasses to hide them. You sit with your toes dangling off the dock. They still have their shoes on. You run out of rocks, so you sit quietly for a while. You ask them what they’re thinking. They talk about how they talk differently around different people. They talk about friends they pretend to have, and a mother who wishes they would just be like their sister. They talk about the recording equipment in their basement. You don’t know what to say.
You eat pizza in some tiny place where everyone speaks Greek. You talk about important things, like what your grandparents smell like and what you think about when you get migraines. They talk about important things, too, like candy with plum pits inside it, and old cartoons. You ask them what their father was like and they get angry. They shout at you and the Greek people all turn. They don’t apologize.
You help them dye their hair black. They don’t like the way you do it. They keep telling you you missed something. Something about the way they say it makes you nervous. When you’re done, your hands are covered in splotches, and you have trouble remembering their head was ever different.
They start calling you things, like fuck-up and whore. At first you laugh because it’s funny, then you laugh because you don’t know what else to do.
You help them with their homework. You’re good at math. It goes alright for a while. Then they start yelling at the paper. You keep going. Then they start yelling at you. You keep going. You feel your mouth go dry as they fill it with trigonometry. It’s pointier than you would have thought. You try to spit it out but they hold your mouth shut. You can’t breath. Eventually they let go, and you can finally cough. You wonder how to fix paper cuts in your mouth. You apologize.
It’s been a year. Sometimes, when you leave their house, they leave small bruises on your neck. Sometimes they leave more.
You don’t tell your mother about them.
In a lot of ways, it’s right, but also it isn’t. It’s so incomplete. It’s missing the times they hit me. It’s missing feeling afraid, it mostly just sounds confused, so small and isolated, and so full of all the wrong details. But also, I wrote it then, so isn’t it the closest I have to what I was really feeling? I never wrote down anything about my feelings about that relationship while I was in it. There aren’t any messages on Skype or Facebook or Google. If there were text messages, they don’t exist anymore, but I don’t think there ever were.
What a princess
You made me what i am -_-
by spoiling me
I tried to balance it out with abuse
Clearly it didn’t work out.
I didn’t use the word abuse until a few years had passed. It didn’t feel right.
When I first started telling people, I would just say I had dated someone who hit me. It was easier to see all the jokes as just jokes.
Have I made this into something bigger than it was by thinking about it since? When I write about it, am I really helping myself heal, or am I just pulling cuts that started out small further and further apart?
I’m in a car with my partner, outside our friend’s house for a party. It’s been two years since I broke up with Caz, or maybe three, I can’t quite remember. My partner and I are laughing and I make a bad joke. They groan and lightly slap the back of their hand into my stomach. I stop laughing. I know that they are saying something but my ears are full of white noise. I stare down at my feet and do my best to count the crosses of my shoelaces.
One, two. I can’t seem to get past two.
They are saying something, they are saying something or they are crying I am not sure.
I am ok I am ok I am ok.
“Give me a minute,” I say.
I realize I haven’t been breathing, or I have been breathing too much. My throat feels tight and it is still so hard to count the shoelaces.
One two, one two, one.
I am slumped in the car seat and my lips are stuck together they are melted like wax. My partner is crying into the house and the car is dark. My whole body is loose, bones hanging in my skin, stretching its edges like an overfilled trash bag.
There it is, the feeling in my stomach again. There it is, again and again and again.
One two. One two.
I look down, and my feet are so far away from my body. It’s hard to believe they could still be mine.
When Caz hit me in the stomach, they didn’t say anything, or even stay to look at me. They walked away while I did my best to stay standing.
There is an ache in your throat and at the top of your lungs after someone hits you hard enough to push your breath out. There is a tightness that fights against your breath for hours after it happens, and a low warm throb in your gut that beats louder than your heart.
I still feel that tightness most days. It comes unexpectedly, a phantom hand around my trachea. I have learned how to breathe with my diaphragm, deep and slow and regular. I have learned to remind my body that nothing is wrong, I can breath, I am ok, but sometimes the air still gets away from me.
They usually hit me in public, in crowds or around friends. It was easy to do.
They weren’t the first. Sometimes people would laugh
“Wow, you’re whipped!”
but usually no one noticed. If they did they didn’t say anything.
For a long time, when I wrote about times they hit me in the face, I would talk about how they chipped one of my front teeth, just a little. A small enough nick to hide, but big enough to cut my tongue on when I was trying to talk. I’m not sure if it was really true. The dentists never mention it when they look inside my mouth.
They made me quieter, which is maybe what I meant, whether the tooth is chipped or not. They had lots of ways of teaching me not to say things they didn’t like, which sometimes meant anything at all.
Caz would dig their nails into my arm when we sat next to each other, leave little crescent moon indents that would still rise the next day. They would twist my fingers until it felt like they would break. I would apologize, and then close my mouth.
Sometimes I would hold their hand just to keep their fingers busy.
Once I kept talking. I don’t know why I kept talking, but I did. They pushed me down and shoved sheet after sheet of paper into my mouth, forcing my head into the cold tile floor. I couldn’t understand the expression on their face and I couldn’t look away.
Their eyes were flat and focused. I don’t think they saw a person.
Hannah saw the whole thing. She cheered them on.
When it was over we all acted like nothing had happened. I licked the blood off the insides of my cheeks the best I could and pretended they didn’t sting when I ate dinner with my family that night.
Caz renamed me several times while we were dating. The first name was Princess. I liked it a lot, but it didn’t stick. There were a couple others they liked much more.
They once branded the word SLUT across my chest in hickies. The bruises only lasted a couple of days, but the name stuck as fast as if the word had been burned into my skin. It became their pet name for me, the way babe or honey was for other couples. Everyone else started saying it too. Devon called me slut. Alan called me slut. Sacha called me slut. Nicholas called me slut. Joslin called me slut. Audrey called me slut. Juliana called me slut. Walter called me slut. Evan called me slut. Han called me slut. Elena called me slut. Yasmine called me slut. Oliver called me slut. Ethan called me slut. Ari called me slut. Ashley called me slut. It was my name. Whore was also very popular. Some people just said “woman” with the same voice.
why am i a slut? ><
…I’m not sure.
I decided it at some point.
And now it’s true!
More people felt comfortable touching me after my name had changed. Now that I was Slut, my body was not just mine anymore. It was a joke anyone could take part in. Slut was a name that assured everyone around me that I had no reason to stop them from touching me. After all, everyone else was doing it.
I always fall for people who have already fallen for me. I have a hard time separating what they want from what I want. It’s hard to figure out what I want. I don’t want anyone to touch me, but I don’t like sleeping alone.
My childhood friend JJ liked to pin me when we played. He liked to twist my fingers. Sometimes he would hit me.
I kept going over to his house for years, and it was always the same. I learned to just be as quiet as I could, to make it as sure as possible.
Once his dad asked him what he was doing when he twisted my fingers.
“It’s just so much fun to hurt him,” he said.
I am very aware of cars behind me. I do my best to walk so that I am facing traffic on my side, but sometimes they still manage to sneak up on me.
Windows rolled down all the way usually means men whistling. It is always the men who whistle, but sometimes the women with them laugh the hardest.
Windows rolled halfway are usually worse. Sometimes these cars pull up next to me, slow down to match my walk. “You need to go the fuck home,” screams a red face, eyes peering over the top of his glass shield. I wonder where he thinks faggots come from, but I don’t say anything. Just keep walking.
Now that the mechanism itself is ancient and broken, we have to make reconstructions and models for how it must have worked. We take what we have, and we build what we can. Here is how we know our current explanation makes sense:
In a geocentric solar system, the Sun rotates around the Earth at a rate of 1 rotation per year and the planets rotate in circles around the Sun at their mean distances and mean rates of rotation. If the solar system bodies all moved at constant rates in circular orbits, then the deferent and epicycle models of the planets previously outlined would be an exact model. In this model, (g1, -g2) is a period relation for the planet, where g1 and g2 are positive integers. This means that the mean period of the planet around the Sun, r, is defined as r = –g2/(g1 – g2) and its rotation is 1/r = 1 – g1/g2 rotations per year.
If s is a unit vector in the direction of the Sun and m is a unit vector in the direction of Mars from the Sun, then the vector between Mars and the Earth is s + pm, where p is the mean distance of Mars from the Sun. The deferent and epicycle model describes a planet’s position in the reverse order: pm + s.
It seems an obvious thing to state that a + b = b + a, but it is essential to justify this reconstruction. It is impossible for us to understand what the s were thinking when they made their device. What we know now changes the way that we think. We can’t help but know that the Earth revolves around the sun, and so we come to our conclusions through different paths. a + b = b + a. Our results are still the same.
In the gears of the Antikythera mechanism, the point s is fixed to G4, since it is the mirror image of p across the b–g line of symmetry (drawn in red), p is fixed to G3, and the gears G3, G4 have equal numbers of teeth. We want to show that s is the sum of two vectors.
The notation R(a | b) will be used to mean the relative rotation of “gear a” or “point a” relative to “gear b”. Relative to b1, G1 and G2 are gears on fixed axes. So we can calculate their rotations from the basic equation of meshing gears:
Rot (G2 | b1) = (- g1/g2)*Rot (G1 | b1)
G1 is fixed, so its rotation relative to b1 is -1, because b1 rotates at the rate 1.
Therefore, Rot (G2 | b1) = (- g1/g2)*-1 = g1/g2
Since m is the mirror of p (fixed to G2) in the bg-mirror, its rotation, relative to b1 is Rot (m | b1) = – g1/g2. The rotation of m can then be calculated as Rot (m) = Rot (m | b1) + Rot (b1) = -g1/g2 + 1 = (g2 – g1)/g2 = 1/r. This rotation is identical to the mean rotation of a planet defined earlier.
The vector joining b with m is dm, where d is the distance of the pin p from the center of G2, g. Because the bg line of symmetry (in red) and the bg’ line of symmetry
(in green) are both perpendicular to line bgg’ (in blue) and so are parallel, the points m, s and p are all the same distance from the bgg’ axis. Therefore, length ms = length gg’ = d/p.
So, if s is a unit vector in the direction of the bgg’ axis, then the point s is defined by the vector dm + (d/p)s = (d/p)(s + pm). This position is related to a planet’s position s + pm by a conversion factor, d/p, which depends on the size of the gear. The rotations of the chosen gears can therefore be made to correspond to the movements of each planet.
The last time I went over to JJ’s house, I was about nine or ten. I said something about another one of our friends. JJ got really mad at me, and took out a foam sword. I knew what was coming, so I curled up into a ball on the floor and covered my head with my hands.
JJ whipped me with the sword for about half an hour. I remember thinking to myself that everything would be fine, he was my friend, and once this was over we would have fun again. All I had to do was stay curled, and it wasn’t so bad.
JJ only stopped because his dad came downstairs and found us. He looked very angry. He sent me home with about three words. My mother didn’t let me go back to JJ’s house again, but I still played with him sometimes at school, until it became clear that he was popular and I wasn’t, and he stopped knowing my name.
Alan got the picture out of me a couple weeks before he posted it. He and another friend broke into my house when I was in the shower. They locked themselves in the bathroom with me and took out all the towels. I held the shower door closed while they talked about what they were going to do to me, laughing so hard they couldn’t keep their heads up straight.
I had the idea for the picture. I had been in the shower for almost an hour. I was shivering, deep fissures forming between the wrinkles on my toes, and my fingertips were starting to bleed, slipping on and off the awkward handle on the shower door. I knew I had to bargain with them, and I knew they would think it was funny. I talked them down from naked photos, convinced them that it would be much better if the pictures were a little softer, much better if the lighting was just sexy enough, if I posed just artsy enough. Eventually, they agreed. I made them promise that no one else would see the photos.
I thought about nothing while they positioned me on the red couch. It was a little harder than I remembered it being. I let most of my weight fall to my hip. The sound of the shower is deafening when I remember the photo shoot, even though I know we must have turned the shower off and gone upstairs. The photo is the only thing that is still clear in my mind, a frozen image without a caption.
When I go home I sleep on the same couch. It’s better than sleeping in the bed I grew up in, but I still keep all of my clothes on.
When I was seven, my parents took me with them to visit some of their friends. They had a kid the same age as me, Max, and so we were sent off to play while they talked. Max had a large playroom full of lots of toys that I was very jealous of. We started there, but he seemed distracted. Eventually he stood up.
“Follow me,” he said.
I followed him out into the garden, into the trunk of his parents’ car.
“Take your pants off,” he said.
“Because I told you to,” he said, “and if you don’t, no one will be your friend.”
After a little more encouragement, I eventually did take my pants off. He stuck his hand in my underwear and played with my scrotum. I told him to stop and he shook his head.
“You can play with mine later,” he said.
I remember looking at the gray ceiling of the car and feeling ashamed, but not knowing why. There was a small elliptical shaped light on the edge where the ceiling met the wall. Something was wrong with it, and it flickered a little, a dirty flash of yellowbrown. I wished that it would turn off all the way and everything would just be dark.
We heard our parents’ voices outside and Max told me to put on my pants.
I didn’t tell anyone about Max until Devon told me about twelve years later that Max had also brought him to the car, and told him to do the same thing. Devon had said no. I wondered why I hadn’t said no then, where all the no’s had been every time I had needed them.
My body is too smart for my brain. It knows how much force it takes for a kitchen knife to cut a carrot. It knows how much weight the point can carry, gravity and muscle and heavy air behind it. It knows the thickness of my skin and it knows what my brain wants when it flashes images of teeth and claws bursting from my stomach in front of my eyes, and so I put the kitchen knife back in the box it came from, and my arms remember only how cold it felt, suspended against my skin for so many minutes, without the force to move forward.
The only person I ever stood up to was Sacha. He was very short and thin, awkward with glasses that didn’t fit him very well. He was one of the only boys I had ever met who was smaller and weaker than me.
I started by twisting his fingers. Just when he would reach out for me at first, but it felt good to have power over someone, and eventually I would twist them if he said something I didn’t like. Sitting next to him, on the bus, in class, twisting his fingers further than I knew I should, I thought about what his fingers felt like. I kept twisting.
Once when he wouldn’t leave me alone, I threw his phone against a wall, shattered the screen, and walked away. When he tried to talk to me about it the next day, I didn’t say anything. It was all so easy.
I changed Sacha’s name to Bitch. Most people heard it from Caz first, but I was the one who told it to them.
Sacha dated Caz after I broke up with them. I never asked him about it. I never told him what they were like. I feel worse about how I treated Sacha than almost anything else I have ever done.
I am more afraid of being like Caz now than anything else, since I know just how easy it would be.
For a long time it seemed so strange to me that the person who lent me my first skirt could also have hit me so often, but the more I think about it, it isn’t very strange at all.
Antikythera gearing schematic by ShoreKeep, reproduced under terms of the Creative Commons attribution license.
Deferent/epicycle and planetary mechanism diagrams reproduced from “The Cosmos in the Antikythera Mechanism” (2012) by Tony Freeth and Alexander Jones under terms of the Creative Commons attribution license.
“Back Plate” section adapted from “”The Cosmos in the Antikythera Mechanism” (2012) by Tony Freeth and Alexander Jones.
Jenny Fried is a writer living in California. Her work has appeared previously or is forthcoming in Cheap Pop, Milk Candy Review, Jellyfish Review, and X-R-A-Y. Find her on twitter @jenny_fried.