This Life Has Died (The Seamstress)

Snip. Snip. Julia couldn’t tell you how many times she’d cut her hair. They found her scissors, but still she cut, just with her fingers. They were sharp enough if you closed your eyes and thought hard enough. Pulled hard enough. Snip. Snip.

She came in with the same thud one hears when a whale beaches itself upon the sand. She came in the same way, her mother said, when she was little. Dead because she decided she was so, but alive enough that the rest of the world, with their boring eyes boring holes into your skull (maybe they could pour in seeds, maybe she could have a garden, rather than a workshop), alive enough that they deemed her worth saving.

They’d been trying to save her for twenty-two years now.

You push me back, I’ll just drown, she told them as she pulled another tissue out of the box and began to tear it. It was methodical. It was precise. Tear a small line, thumb’s width, almost to the very end, but stop before it’s disconnected. Then go the other way. Zig-zag. It made pretty Z-line strings of tissue. Then she’d split them up when she was through. They wouldn’t let her cut her hair anymore. The tissues looked like hair, sometimes. You push me back, I’ll drown.

“There’s no need for threats, Julia.”

It’s not a threat. I’m just telling you how it is. Whoops. It tore too quickly. She placed the strip of tissue within the larger piece and crumpled it into a ball. Then she aimed for the wastebasket. Kobe!

She missed, but it didn’t stop her from laughing. Aaaaaiirrrbaaallll! Her sides hurt.

“Stop that.”

She stopped laughing, but they didn’t look any happier. So she started laughing again.

“Why do you do that, with the tissues, Julia?”

Did you know they stabbed him twenty-three times? Isn’t that perfect? It took a prime to kill the prime! I’m not prime, but you can’t kill me. It’s not logical, that’s all.

“Why do you bring that up?”

I am his blood. I am his curse. Even if my father was no son of his. Every alley smells of my moaning, every hollow of a neck has the taste my mouth on it. She put aside her torn tissues, leaving them in a fluffy pile on her cold sheets, and stood up. She was pleased when they let her walk. She’d walk on the road. All roads lead to Rome. All roads lead to home.

“Julia, you’re paying attention, aren’t you?”

She grinned.

“Are you Octavian’s daughter? Octavian, son of Caesar?”

You can’t kill me. I’m already dead. I am the seamstress.


She spun around, and her gown billowed around her. How pretty, how pretty!

“Yes, it’s quite nice.” Ah! She heard it. Sometimes their voices puffed, and then she knew she had them. Had them scared.

He took my friends and stained my blood. I have no friends; my blood is stained. But look at my dress, isn’t it pretty? She spun again so they could see. I was a weaver. I was a spinner. One more time, she twirled. I am a spinner. But I’m not a weaver.

She could feel their hands bruising her arms, but she laughed and laughed. They were so fun. She screamed it this time, I am the seamstress! I am the seamstress!

She came in with the same thud one hears when a whale beaches itself upon the sand. But she’d go out with a flurry of flutters. Witch to whale to seamstress to butterfly. Witch to whale to seamstress to butterfly. She would flutter this time.

“But the creed of the seamstress is that you’re pretty in pieces.”
– Dessa, “Seamstress”