Skinned Knees

Sweetheart

Skinned Knees
Sweetheart

I'm checking myself

when I step out of the house. 

Is this skirttopdresshair 

going to get me attention

or, a salivating stare? 

Do I care?

 

You'll know when my body is ready to be sexed 

an object YES

It's an invitation, expressed.

 

I'm a prize to this man's shark eyes 

on my thigh. Prey, 

ready to be devoured. 

33 degrees the sweat creeps.

Gaze to the floor, hurry more. 

 

Bonsoir, tres jolie

Suck on this sweetheart...

¡Guapa! ¡Inglesita! ¿vas solita? 

 

Shoulders hunch, teeth grit, 

muttering you're a piece of shit. 

Middle finger flips.

 

Calm down love, it's a compliment.

No, it's a threat. 

A dog cocking it's leg 

on its territory. 

And since I hit puberty

The dogs started barking at me 

 

I am 12, walking with my mum and grandmother, in the small town where my grandparents live. A car goes past and winds down the window and whistles and beeps their horn. I can feel my cheeks flushing. I hunch my shoulders and try to make myself invisible. I wish the pavement dark with the chalky smell of rain could open up and I could fall down the covered drain. My mum filled with the kind of self-assurance you can only acquire at some point in your late 30s remarks “probably for you Beth” looking at my 60-something granny. For better or worse they are fading into invisibility, I am coming into focus. 

I invited this attention, I realise, perhaps it was my new jeans that made me feel a little more womanly and the fact I'm wearing an actual bra now. I am mortified and silently pretend nothing happened.

I'm mixing this event with countless others, they blend into one. It's not special and it's not unique. Some have it better and more girls have it much worse. It's a dripping tap of whispers, whistles, and shouts. Eventually you tune out of the infuriating drip, drip, drip: it becomes white noise. Every so often you become aware of it once more. The drip waves into a flood of rage. In the crash and the swell of indignation, usually delayed, you wish you could have reacted in a more intelligent or effective way. You remember that you too can take up space and that this is not fair. Being a young female is to be visible and commodified. We do not exist for your eyes.

 

 

 

WRITTEN BY BETHAN SCREEN

ILLUSTRATION BY SARAH MCCROREY