Nudity is not sexual, is not consent, is not vulgar, is not unnatural.

Photograph by Tyler Mandel.

Published on NULLAblog

The window beside my bed casts an afternoon silhouette on the wall. I stand across from the gravitational force on two feet. It sends an airshow of invisible, electric impulses. An alto dial tone echoes out through my ears in response. Its colorless blush allowing the figure to dress in shades of rouge — if it so wishes. Face like an opaque veil. Its jawline relaxed, the molars probably aligned to rest comfortably in a line. Its skin unblemished by slightly raised freckles. Its belly button able to be defined confidently as an innie or outie, but not both. The legs like one lane streets of an all night drive.

I do not resemble my shadow. I look down at my ankles swollen from sleep and toes, slightly crooked. My hips bone noting their own width, seeming to widen in a self-mocking way. My throat fidgets into my stomach. I take a deep breath and keep breathing, my ribs inconsiderate of the air around me.


A well-fed man, self-identified as gay, allows his supervision to glide throughout the room. He stands beside the lighted entrance, handing out preselected clothes. To him, my underaged frame is another hanger that moves itself. Only three of the building’s walls seem permanent from inside; the closest not built from cement, seeming to fall inward. The girls inside giggle at tribulations of their high school tragedies. I watch his eyes trace their adolescent tan lines, the only souvenirs left from family vacations.

Turmeric colored lingerie is handed to me with a warning not to wear my own bra underneath. I hide the fabric in the side of my upper thigh. Where’s the bathroom? I look around. There is none, you can change over there. His finger gestures through the inconvenience of my question toward the room’s center. The air he pushes smelling of cheap nicotine, the kind bought at the convenience stores off the interstate. I follow the smokeless scent to the other girls, corners of my mouth lifting without my eyes, and I undress as told with my back to the glass-walled door.


The shower drips white noise that can be heard through the door. Bare skin hunching forward. Forehead down. Breasts against knees, those knees against plaster. The tub fills and I lift from my hips before the water reaches my lip. My humid exhales quickly swallow as embarrassment swells. My ears burn like cinnamon, turning scarlet at the knob on my right ear where my brother once pulled. My hands under my shins cramp from the pull until my knuckles are loose enough to twist off, fingers uncorked from palms. I hold my breath again, several seconds longer this time. Under water, my eyes feel like early morning shadows. Colors swarm, shades of blue birds chasing glimmers of noon. The walls of the tub breathing outward, allowing the warm liquid more space to swim, enough to twist carelessly onto my back-bent spine. Indents of my nails on my bristled shins. I sit up, fingertips unstopping the drain.


I grip on his palm trying to pull the clothes off my hips, a subtle defiance of my girlhood fairytales. I am not his papier-mâché doll, I tell myself. His hand leaves my lowest back as my middle supports my weight, keeping myself raised from my unwashed sheets. He leans back, hands on his knees. My eyes are cautious to his response, if the glance skip down or the mouth savors.

My thumbs caught on the bottom of my cotton dress, a temptation to his animal instincts. I hesitate. He looks confused. I hear his throat clip, the way it does after an unexpected question is asked. I lift the dress off my skin. It catches between my elbows creating a web of cloth over head. An unplanned tug and its off. I smile, the friendly, awkward kind between passing strangers. He smiles back. I imagine he is embarrassed, too.

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