Just the right one swelled and grew; the other turned inward and sank, deeper and deeper, a mole’s nose, pink point digging its way into her chest. Other girls stuffed their bras with socks; she wondered if what they meant was this. The process wasn’t painful, thumbs pressed into wet clay, but she worried for her heart. She awoke to wings against her sweaty sheet, bass thrumming, whole body a subwoofer, her heart a drum inside a singing bowl, ba-buh-ba-buh-ba-buh-ba-buh. She ran to the toilet, hung her pounding head but nothing came. Cold tile kissed her knees, night’s breeze against a humid morning. The house hummed around her; the lawnmower and the weedwhacker—her parents were outside so early. Ba-buh-ba-buh-ba-buh. A drumbeat into battle, an auditory talisman, I-am-I-am-I-am. Back in her room, she undressed completely, lay atop her sheets, and felt summer air swirl within her basin. No more socks, no more pretending. Her mother sent her to a doctor and sent her to a shrink, but the girl wouldn’t think of changing, and besides, there was no pill for this. The bowl became a burrow, bored straight through, front to back. So her mother shut the blinds, pulled curtains tight, begged her to stop, please these topless days in the backyard, running fast to feel the rush of wind, falling, exhausted, on the teeming grass; she slept outside that summer, would forget to find her bed. While her parents were at church on Sunday, she dozed in late-morning sunlight until a bird cheeped from her chest. With tucked chin, she saw its bubblegum-pink beak, looked into its dark, dark eyes and knew it wouldn’t scratch her. She pulled up handfuls of grass, scattered them across her stomach, ran her fingers through her hair and offered up shed strands. The bird built its nest, settled down on the solid ground beneath her body, cozied up against her heartbeat. When a male nearby called bob-o-link-bob-o-link, there was a stirring in her chest, a rustling of feathers. She breathed deep, willed her bobolink to stay—I, just wear my Wings—and gave thanks to feel it settle.
Kate Finegan lives in Toronto. Her fiction chapbook The Size of Texas is available from Penrose Press. She is assistant fiction editor of Longleaf Review. Find her at katefinegan.ink or on Twitter @kehfinegan.