Every night, there’s only me, the bathroom mirror, and shallow breaths that I have to constantly run a forearm over my reflection to keep it from drowning. Miles away, other seventeen-year old girls are burrowing their faces into pillows while I burrow mine in more layers of foundation. Miles much farther away, seventeen-year old girls are waking up from a good night’s sleep, getting ready for school while I slather more red on my lips, getting ready for trembling thighs and dirty looks catapulted my way. The doctor told me that no amount of makeup would be sufficient enough to cover up my kind of decay. And my kind of decay comes with a watered-down hourglass that counts years instead.

There’s only strangers now and from them, I’ve learnt that letting go isn’t such a hard thing after all. Sometimes I pass by them in the daylight and they refuse to look me in the eye. Most of them have sons on their shoulders, a wife just an arm’s length away, and I imagine them coming home to a roof above their heads just to sneak out the back door past midnight. And then there are people I used to know. These were the kind that was much harder to let go of. Sometimes I see them with sons on their shoulders, a wife just an arm’s length away and I can’t help but wonder if they sneak out the back door past midnight. They never recognise me, of course. That’s when I understood what homeless people might feel like, maybe even like rabid dogs that prowl the streets rummaging through other people’s waste. To them, people like us are merely a part of their morning jog scenery, best left in the rearview mirror. Only on the occasion that they don’t run a red light do they notice us and ponder why life is such a cruel thing. And when they step on the gas, we are reduced back to rearview mirror mountaintops.

I’m not blaming them for living their lives however much I sound like I am. But sometimes they ask questions and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t mind. Because I want to know what it’s like to not be called a woman again. I want to know what it’s like to be a girl and wear makeup for myself, not for the satisfaction of men who see me as something more than their wives and much less than a pound of ground meat in the market because they don’t see the blood, they don’t see what happens behind the curtains. And I’m glad they don’t.

Because I don’t think they’d be able to go on living and still call it a life, the way I do. I have always been the last in line, the one everyone cuts through so they don’t have to wait. The doctor told me it won’t take any longer now. But I’m tired of waiting.

—request

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