A stranger on the internet tells you he wants to fuck you
and you are no longer your body now,
you are a person who has a body and your body is a public good,
an open vessel, and you see the faceless man everywhere you go:
he is every name, every awkward smile, every pair of eyes, he is every man
who used to nod politely at your parents and compliment your sneakers
because in another life, you could have been his daughter, all vulnerable and sweet
and satin and plaid, but now you are curves, a body, a portrait hidden
in the back of a museum, an invitation. This is how it happens:
you grow out of the person you used to be and into a warning,
into a woman clutching her phone in her pocket as she walks to her car at night.
You, something sexual, something just old enough to be exciting,
something just young enough to be excited. You let the message sit in your inbox,
a secret, an exit wound, evidence that there is a war,
that there are men in trucks loading their guns with stale cheers
and you are a casualty, exposed and afraid.
You are bleeding on the sidewalk and he still calls you baby.
I did not want to go to your house but still, I found myself
crossing and uncrossing my thighs on the subway,
trying to find the strength to get off at another stop.
The problem was that my rejection made you angry
and your anger made me scared and anyway,
I always liked public transportation better
when I could predict the destination.
On the subway, I counted the warning signs:
your parents laughing about your erraticism.
The framed pictures in your hallway, how
even in photographs you looked so peaceful
one moment, so manic and cold the next.
My legs stuck to the subway seat,
so maybe the universe knew something
I didn’t. My arms shook and I blamed it
on the three cups of black tea. I blamed it
on the quiet violence, the fear. The fear.
The subway stopped and I remember
my body closing in on itself, my fear twisting
inside itself like a kaleidoscope. I remember
the heels of my feet, ready to run. My heart,
sore and slow. Everything else, so much better.
Lydia Wang is a writer and caffeine enthusiast from Boston and New York City. Her work has previously been published in The Rising Phoenix Review and Germ Magazine. In her free time, she likes to spend too much money at the bookstore, rant about feminism, and fall in love with strangers on public transportation. Visit her online at www.poemsbylydia.tumblr.com.