While The Body Is
by Kyra Cullinan

"while the body is and is and is
and has no place of its own."
-- Tortures, Wislawa Szymborska

You remember a litany of bodies which were not your own. The prickly unfamiliarity of being wrapped in someone else's skin. Nothing right about the way you moved.

Your mother, first, and the foreign sagging and swellings of her body. The terror in your gut the first time you woke to find yourself decades older and inexorably trapped. Watching her leave for school every day with your hair and wrists and smile. The certainty that nobody else would notice how wrong her eyes looked.

And then a trap of your own making (taking away from yourself the same thing she had) -- you were so afraid and so angry, and the world exploded into a shower of light and hugeness and incomprehensiblity. Physical and mental circles for three years, they tell you, when you should have been going to college, growing up. Your life, stolen again, and even back in your regular form, nothing felt right. You had forgotten yourself, and the whole world was so unfamiliar.

Rack took you outside yourself. Made you forget the wrongness of your own body, this stupid, fragile, precious thing you can't even hold onto. You were led there the first time by notes from the margins of your mother's books, her sense memories flickering in your head. His eyes looked like hers used to and you weren't sure if that was more frightening or tantalizing. Fear pooling in your belly and trickling to lie curled and throbbing between your legs and then you were melting everywhere, like nothing you'd ever felt before. You cried, afterward, and swore you'd never go back again, but then your universe shrunk to a rat cage, and afterward Willow and Xander looked so old and Buffy was hard and Larry was dead and it called to you, pulled you like yearning.

You have more of your mother in you than you like to admit. Relics from her time in your body, perhaps (/who knows what she used to do with it?/ your brain would whisper late at night, those first weeks back), or something genetic. Maybe vestiges of a childhood tinged with the witchcraft of her house. You can't deny that there's something comfortingly familiar about the smell of herbs, conjuring memories from when you were very small.

You've tried to deny it, tried so hard to excise her from every part of your life. You ate more brownies than you could count, sophomore year, trying to prove to your dad and yourself that you were normal, that you were you, and nothing like her. Revelling in tasting them with your own mouth, not hers. But there's something in your veins that draws you back and back; you secreted her spellbook away from Giles afterward, so you had that, and you had Michael, and Willow to an extent. Your own haphazard forays into the dark arts which occasionally intersected with theirs. But Michael's magic was thin and weak and Willow never really cared about you, far more focused on her group of friends, the library clique. Even left to your own devices, though, you couldn't stay away from it, couldn't not whisper spells to let you slip through highschool more easily.

You blamed these remnants of her when you were lying gasping on Rack's grimy rug, feeling like you'd been pulled apart like taffy. You spent half your time then puking and the rest thinking of nothing but the way he touched you, crackled through you. You've seen yourself reflected in the glass in his hands, and you were so small that you didn't have to worry about what to do with yourself anymore. He spun you like a top and you loved every instant when you were something different than Amy, when you didn't have to worry about your body and how it wasn't a cheerleader's or a seventeen year old's, or right in any way.

And then Willow, with her self-righteousness and ultimatums (and it was three years before she turned you back again, while her life went on and on). Closing the door in your face, when she was ten times worse than you, when you'd seen her writhing for him. Shameless. But it wasn't enough, and she killed him, sucked him dry, took him from you. You found him floating, empty, stinking of her rage. A carcass, and you trembled in response at the fragility of flesh. Alone, always alone.

But you are not like him, or Willow, or even your mother. You are only Amy, and you stand naked in front of the mirror for long minutes and the line of your stomach never seems any less strange. You try your best to fit in wherever you can. It's easy enough to learn the Wicca group's favored terminology, about Gaia and the moon and cycles. To not talk about the terrifying mutability of your own limbs.

You remember bodies not your own. The close press of them, the dizzying feeling of drawing air in through different nostrils. You shouldn't be the only one to understand the terror of looking down and not seeing what you expect. Not the only one to know how things stick with you and stay, unshakeable. You are your mother's daughter, and your justice is cunning. Little Willow, always so perfect, so loved, hulks now, shouts, and for once you are the stronger of the two. You know it won't last, but for just a few moments you can breathe all right inside your own skin. Knowing that maybe you are not so powerless to affect the shapes of things.


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