“Ugh! This never works the way it’s supposed to!”
With a yank at the zipper and the sucking in of my belly, the part of the dress that would zip up, unzips. I exhale, releasing my gut—its voluminous, squishy mass relaxing and nearly doubling in size as it flops over the top edge of my underwear. I pull the dress over my head and rip it from my body, my hair getting caught in the angry zipper. I sweat as I try to free it.
“What never works like it’s supposed to?” my sister asks through the dressing room door. I almost forget she is there—she and everyone else in the store. The horror that is my unclothed body is protected by nothing but slanted, wooden slats. “The dress?” she continues. “I thought you said you’ve never tried that one on before.”
“Not the dress. My body.” I finally free my hair, not without sacrificing a broken, tangled wad of it to the Zipper Gods of Unkind Dresses. I wince as I toss the now-inverted dress onto the bench. Just another in the pile of many.
By now I’m sweating profusely, and after pushing back the strands of hair that stick to my face, I find beat-red cheeks and eyes that turned from defeated to enraged sometime within the past minute—probably at the same time the zipper turned from merely stubborn to full-blown hangry. I hope it’s happy with fine, stringy, dishwater-blond.
“Sorry,” my sister says during my measured huffing. “You know you can’t get a new one until you pass—”
“—All the courses,” I finish for her. “I know.”
“Look, this is just one dress. Just get through this one event, and then by the next time another bowtie event comes along, you’ll have aced all the tests and have that new body.”
I sit atop the mound of disregarded dresses, just as weak and exhausted as I am defeated and exasperated. “How am I supposed to ace those tests if I can’t even get through a single course?”
Her silhouette moves closer to the door. Her voice is quieter when she says, “You can only do what you can do. Like I’ve said before, you’re not alone. I’m sure you’re not the only one who hasn’t been able to see the Body Makers in a while because of their health.”
How is that supposed to make me feel better? Of course I’m not alone. Of course there are others like me. That doesn’t help me feel well again though. It doesn’t fix my illness or give me a free pass with the Body Makers.
But my sister will never get that. She will never get what it’s like to be trapped inside a gross body that betrayed her. She will never get what it’s like to know that if she could just pass a few tests, the Body Makers would have her fitted for a new, streamlined body in no time, but that because of the body’s shitty condition, passing said tests is impossible. And that it may be that way for the rest of her miserable life.
She will never know the unfairness of all of that.
I sigh, standing in the skin they gave me years ago, that will probably keep me prisoner until I die. “Give me the next size up,” I say through the door.