They shout when the small moon of my fist orbits her spine, my hurt lined red across her skin, her shins rubbed raw on the carpeted high school hallway. She leaves a Pluto-blue bruise with a well-aimed kick to my hip, and with her arm across my throat I smell her musk and the sweet heat of her breath and Victoria’s Secret Love Spell, the way we all smell, like belonging is sorcery written in the stars. With her face close to mine, I see Saturn ringing her eye from the last fight.
In high school we fight every day after lunch where we share orange slices and diet tips and Tylenol for the cramps confining us. We cuddle and brush each other’s hair and talk about the lonely that comes even when you’re with a crowd which is why we constellate our collective hurt, wrestle to see how strong we are because Tasha stopped eating last month and Becky’s dad says she was an accident and Teresa wants Kelly but that isn’t allowed just like we’re not allowed to show a bra strap or say we don’t believe in God even though it’s hard to believe in a higher power when the middle school principal ran off with a student from his church whose underwear showed all the time.
Sometimes our ass shows from beneath our shorts, or a nipple, but bodies are ok if they are hurting and no one says stop, not even the teachers, who gather like gravity to watch. They place bets, shout “Fight, girl,” gender an asteroid in their throats like how the pregnant girls are expelled or Julie is a slut for dating the band teacher before she graduates or how everyone calls Taylor a girl until he shoots himself in the head and then he becomes a man.
When the boys fight, shove each other into lockers or shout “pussy” across the quad, they are pulled apart and whisked away, but when we fight each day—even the days we weren’t planning but the crowd shows anyway—everyone laughs at the girls eclipsed by fists, the girls who’ve waned all light-year until our pants hang from the comets of our hips.
At night we stand naked, pale as moons in front of our mirrors. We pulse the tender points, the bruises, the scabs, the places where our dearest have left their hurt so we might feast, though our mouths are sore from being wire-trapped into precision and the effort of keeping silent. We are not lonely then, our collective hurt scattered and shining across the galaxies of our bodies. We count our bruises blessings, proof that somebody loves us. We feel, for a moment, like we could be something to wish on.
Sarah Fawn Montgomery is the author of Quite Mad: An American Pharma Memoir (The Ohio State University Press, 2018) and three poetry chapbooks. She is an Assistant Professor at Bridgewater State University. You can follow her on Twitter at @SF_Montgomery.
Photography by: Moriah Leynes