Fire Burns in the Heart of a Woman

by Marissa Fae Myers

I am a liar. Cleaved between two worlds, minds, bodies, and souls. My life has been shattered on the white tile of my kitchen floor, bursting into millions of pieces and glittering in the sun. I’m not a person, but rather a watcher of lives, peering into shattered glass and mud-filled pools and grime smattered on my bathroom floor and fog collected on the edges of my mirror. I watch, react, and feel, but I am not there; it is not real. I am stuck, trapped in an endless maze of feminine cruelty and contorted by my responsibility to be nice to look at and easy to digest whole. I look into the pupils and minds and flaws of those who live on the outskirts of society and see myself reflected in their somber pictures, finding myself buried in the folds of their wrinkles and whites of their eyes. If I could be real, strip the layers from my skin and brazenly call myself a real woman, would I not be ridiculed and crushed beneath leering eyes and lolling tongues? If I could tell the men who claim my hair, body, and sexuality that I am an immortal creature bound to this by a mortal body, would my days not be spent in the bleached, stinking cell of a mental asylum on the dredges of society? I am tired of being pretty. I am tired of being worthy; I simply want to be, and yet I lie. I fold myself into small pieces, my arms and legs and wishes and dreams flattened into fragile origami swans collected on the edge of a windowsill. I tell myself that I am happy and wipe away the tear stains on my wrinkled bed sheets and cream pillows, knowing that tomorrow morning there will be more.

I am a spectacle. A circus attraction, someone to be locked up and jeered at behind the guise of my mental illness, queerness, and femininity. My mind and body turned into experiments, crowds of people sneering from the operating theater and spitting into the opened cavern of my decomposed chest. Their vile conformity poisons my heart, turning it black as it abandons my body and drags itself along the dirt-ridden floor toward the pale blue doors of freedom. I look into the crowd, watching as their faces turn into shadows and their eyes desperately avoid mine, voices quieted until I turn my head. I beg of them, “Look into my eyes as you would a man’s and tell me I am crazy.” They shrink in their red velvet seats, hands folding back into the crux of their laps. They do not speak again. And yet they do not need to, for my throat has already been corroded by their venom and my tongue has been split into two by their lies. Their pernicious philosophy has woven itself into the deepest recesses of my innocent mind, taking root when I was a child and still carefree enough to play in the dirt and snow. They laugh to themselves as I attack my soul in their stead, engraving their words on the insides of my ribcage and watching as my organs begin to fester and leak from my skin. They have infected my mind and made it so I cannot look into the mirror without seeing their handprints painted over my body. Telling me that I’m too fat here, too see-through there, not smooth enough in a tucked-away corner, and too loud and too human to be considered a real woman. I have done their job for them, convinced the stinging whispers in the back of my head came from my own conscious instead of their rotting teeth. I’ve turned against myself: against my wild hair, scabbed knees, freckled face, and dirt-stained hands in favor of their tightly-woven plaits, pink skin, barren eyes, and fragile voice. I stare up into the operating lights, blinded by their aggressive plea for compliance. I speak a promise: “I will break you on my sharpened teeth and spit your festering blood into the streets where you have raped and oppressed without apology.” The operating room hangs in silence.

I am a force of nature. Wild, spitting blood-flecked froth into the dirt and clawing at any who come too close with too dangerous a glint in their eye. My sides are gashed, dripping blood into my boots, and I proudly track blood-stained footprints across the polished linoleum of my workplace and the darkened wood of my classroom lectures. I sit on the blue plastic of a bus seat and collect stares as the blood begins to pool and drip over the edge and onto the dirt-trodden floors. I mark my survival with the thick scars across my throat and face, mark my resilience with the flash of my eyes and snarl of my lips. The streets around me are barren, people gathering instead to capture my image from the large windows of a coffee shop or from the doorways of run-down convenience stores. The muscles of my jaw and tongue flex underneath my skin, ready to bite through bone and gnash through flesh. I cannot be destroyed. I set my gaze on the world in front of me and yet again make a promise. I shall set your cities on fire: sins repaid as the land turns to ash, the final stage of eradication before rebirth. My bloodstained hands will wipe my face with victory, and you shall tremble before the woman in front of you, for I carry the souls of my ancestors tucked into my breast. My hand, hardened by matronhood, will crush your windpipe as you seduce another child with your schemes of a false femininity. I will make you beg for mercy, let you believe you achieved it, and then rip your spirit from this world and spit on the hole left in your wake.