My bed is covered in black and white pomegranates. They fall across the cloth carefully pointed away from one another, and they match the black and white butterflies of my curtains. My mother sewed me the cover, and she sewed me the curtains, and my father painted my room blue, and my sister coloured in some drawings to hang up on the walls. There is a clock with a cream-coloured rim, and black numbers on a white face. It ticks loudly, and sometimes it will not let me sleep.
It was hot summer, I was sweet sixteen, and First Real High School Boyfriend left purple bruises on my collarbone and my neck and my wrists when he kissed me. I did not mind because I was very soft, and his Love was very hard, and my wool was not wiry yet. When the sky hummed blue I dipped my legs in the bathtub and drew a razor over my bumps and bruises. I opened the windows and I put on a dress and I danced to French music. I thought of being in Paris, of wearing silk, of being in Love. Soft, soft, soft.
I opened the door to First Real High School Boyfriend, standing there Shy and Head Bent until he kissed me and I felt his teeth under his lips, his fingers on the amethyst-peridot-citrine jewels on my collarbone and my neck and my wrists. And I felt his hand like something cold and iron, and I thought Oh This Hurts.
He did not want to dance in Paris or anywhere at all, and he bruised me like my clock went fast to him, though it went slow to me. I Love You Let’s Go To Your Bedroom and pulled me there, me on my pomegranate bed, my tenderness smarting. He on me, fumbling and gasping, and me gasping too, my soft little fists clamped to my dress. I felt him big and iron like his hands, and Oh This Hurts So Much tore out of my mouth in a No like a gunshot.
But the bullet disappeared, and his hands were hard and mine were soft and He Did Not Take Off My Dress. And I felt the tear, and the pain, and he taught me then how very hollow I was, not much of a person at all but a tender little shell. And I felt myself ripping in two, my insides my outsides and I choked on my whimpers, and I stared at my clock with the cream-coloured rim. Two minutes past half-past four bull’s breath went hot against my neck and he slumped over, and I trembled as soft things do when they are torn.
There was blood, sticky on my dress and on the pomegranates. That day I spent an hour shaking on the balcony, smoking cheap Cuban cigarettes until my throat hurt almost as badly as my newly discovered hollow. I vomited once, neatly in the toilet, and I vomited twice, not so neatly on the tiles. I scrubbed at the red pomegranates until they were black and white. And I learned that sheep may tidy after wolves’ dinners.
My clock with the cream-coloured rim still ticks very loudly, and sometimes I do not sleep. Sometimes I wake up at half-past four and think of red pomegranates, of a secret emptiness, of Romeo y Julieta cigarettes, of a bullet that missed its target.
But I was soft then, and Love was hard.
Now I am hard, and Love is soft, and the wool I wear is wiry, and when it scratches my skin, I howl.