Knees locked, pressed together, shoulders hunched
as I count the breaths I take.
While you, man, sit down, elbows flying, thighs inviting,
you, man, have never been taught to count your breaths.
Heads straight, hands on desk, eyes riveted to the board, there is a halo of goodness around girls in a
classroom, as if we were divinely put there to temper the boys’ boisterousness.
Boys will be boys, while we will be perfect at all moments.
We are the audience to their mischief, with coquettish laughs hidden behind flared fingers.
And yet, when it is our turn in the spotlight, it seems as if we have all contracted sorry syndrome.
We apologize away the times when we slip from the
perfection that we hold so dearly, or try our hands at confidence.
I am an expert at feeling the air between my lungs.
I know exactly how much space I take up in the corner of the room.
I fold my body like origami, so that you don’t have to.
Where are the days of running naked through the garden,
with a chest as flat as a boy’s and therefore ok,
with sticky fingers flung towards the sky and my heart hopping between my brittle bones.
I didn’t used to count breaths.
Air was as never-ending as my childhood seemed to be.
Now I hold it all in.
All so that I can be skinny, quiet, understanding, kind, good, feminine, polite, perfection.
With all the air sucked in, I try not to move.
Sometimes, I am so good at my job
that there is no difference between the air and me.
Alyssa Urroz ’16