My Flower Persona
I am useless
like a flower.
born to grow and die
only so that someone
can eye me like a prized possession.
I have no purpose
other than to look pretty
with my dainty petals
softly folding in
in an endless maze of wonder.
I’ve been admired
it should make me happy,
to feel wanted,
but it makes me feel disgusted
that someone would only love me for my body.
I don’t want to just be beautiful.
(I don’t want to be weak)
I want to grow in the light
for the sake of growing,
I want to live
for the sake of living,
I want my colour to drain
for the sake of dying.
I don’t want to grow, live, and die
for someone else’s enjoyment.
I will not be used
like a flower
so stop staring at me
like I can be.
(I may be beautiful, but there is so much more to me than my flower persona).
I run a museum of cursed objects. This newest one takes the cake.
Cursed objects have always kinda been my family’s thing.
Of course, they weren’t in a museum until it was my turn to be in charge of them. My mothers insisted on keeping them in the family’s heavily warded basement storage room, just as the previous generations had for centuries. I, on the other hand, have always been something of an entrepreneurial spirit, and especially after seeing how popular cursed objects and similar things have become, I didn’t see any reason not to put them on display. Hell, my family has looked after these sorts of things for as long as our recorded history goes back. Why not make money about it?
You may be wondering why I’m choosing to post here now. Apparently, a smallish first-floor venue in the middle of a bustling big city doesn’t, in and of itself, draw much attention. My girlfriend and co-owner Emelie insists that if I want to make this work, I need to get some people interested, people who actually care about that sort of thing. And she insists you are these people.
So, hello. My name is Alexis, Alex for short, and I’m here to tell you about the Hall of the Cursed. Em says the best way to go about this is to walk you through a day in my life, so I’ll tell you a little bit about our hallowed Hall, and I’ll tell you about the new “attraction” I picked up this morning. I tell you what, no matter how many times you go through things like this, it never stops being terrifying.
Upon entering the museum, you will undoubtedly notice a set of rules. After all, as you all probably know by now, anyone working with the occult keeps a list of no-nos to survive, especially if they’re involving random civilians who aren’t experienced in this sort of thing. Following these rules is paramount to having a happy and healthy visitation, and you will not be permitted until you sign a little, harmless contract stating that you will follow these rules, and that if not, we at the museum are not responsible for any physical, emotional, or otherwise harm that may befall you. The rules are as follows, for your convenience, as I am working on my customer service (Em says I’m abysmal):
1) DO NOT touch ANY object in the museum without explicit permission from the museum staff or an official sign, which will ALWAYS contain at least ONE capital letter and which will ALWAYS be properly spelled.
2) You MUST kiss the dog on the nose upon entering the museum.
3) Follow ALL rules posted around the museum, PROVIDED they contain at least ONE capital letter AND are properly spelled.
4) Wash your hands before leaving the washroom for at least thirty seconds.
5) Visit the Nokia cellphone room AT YOUR OWN RISK. The museum WILL NOT be held responsible for any chance deaths.
6) You MUST be kind to the crow. You MAY offer him snacks if you like.
7) The janitor is nonverbal and unresponsive. Do not speak to him, but nod politely if he looks your way.
8) ALWAYS hold your breath when walking by the road sign. If you breathe near the sign, the museum will provide you with a complimentary bag of salt and sage and send you home with more detailed instructions.
9) Say hi to Herman the Bug. He likes it. DO NOT say good-bye.
Each guest also receives a pamphlet with these rules, although I’m definitely getting a little weary of printing them. These rules are simple to follow, and after a couple of choice...incidents...with the pink bonnet, we’ve even placed yellow tape in a circle with a six-foot radius to keep idiots with poor estimation skills away from it. No wonder the pandemic is causing so much trouble--apparently all men are physically incapable of estimating a six-foot distance.
Of course, the list of rules for employees to follow is far more extensive, but that’s not generally a problem, since it’s just Em, Jan, and me (Jan being the janitor, of course, and that’s obviously not his real name, but we don’t know what it is, so bite me).
Anyway, this morning Em got a call from a panicked stay-at-home mom who was reportedly in big trouble about some sort of vintage wedding dress she’d found on eBay. Since Em is really more the management type, and I’m the one who generally deals with the hands-on bits, I was the one who somewhat reluctantly headed to the address. I say reluctantly because I’ve never found a single good thing attached to a wedding dress.
Upon my arrival, it became clear that something funny was going on. There was the sound of a screaming child somewhere in a nearby room, which I’ve never been particularly fond of, and the woman who greeted me at the front door was in poorly contained hysterics. She had stringy brown hair, although I suspected that it was generally less unkempt, based on the obviously expensive comb wedged near the back of her head. Tears were streaming down her face, and clearly had been for some time, judging by the tomato color of her face and the general swollen stretch to it. Possibly most troubling was the blood staining her hands, already browning as it dried.
“How can I help you, ma’am?” I said in the least threatening voice possible. For god’s sake, she looks like she’s about to jump out of her skin.
“I killed my husband,” she said.
Yeah, that’s kind of what I thought. “May I come inside?”
She nodded, jerkily, like a badly made puppet, or one with a particularly anxious puppeteer. I followed her inside and was instantly hit with...nothing.
I should expand here and mention that I’m by no mean some sort of sensitive--that’s more Em’s thing, and how we met (a story for a different time, I’m sure). That being said, it’s hard to be around cursed objects for too long without getting a sense for the sort of evil miasma that leeches out of them. So either this woman just needed some haloperidol, or my circumstances at the time were not the right ones to invoke whatever was going on with this dress.
“It’s...in here,” the woman practically whispered. Hm, I thought. Not generally an awesome sign, the whispering.
“So why the museum? Why not the police?” I asked as I followed her into a modest kitchen, then through another doorway into an equally modest living room. In the other room, the child continued to cry. I assumed she had used the number my parents used to give out for any weird or unusual problems, but still, the police are usually the first choice for actual murder-related issues.
“I just...I didn’t know what to do,” she said. “It was whispering to me, telling me...I didn’t want to...but for days, for days it whispered and whispered and it was right! It was right...but now I..., oh, god, oh, god, I don’t know what came over me, what did I do, what did I do...”
Mmkay, I thought, so she wasn’t going to be super helpful. All I was gathering was that the dress had apparently been speaking to her, no doubt persuading her to kill her husband. At least it hadn’t been very fast-acting. That meant it was probably reasonably safe to transport in the lined bag I’d brought. Most things were, provided they weren’t especially hostile.
“Do you know why it would ask you to hurt your husband, Mrs. Meyers?” Or Ms., I corrected mentally.
“It...it knew,” she said in hushed tones. We stopped in front of a large, closed oak dresser. Her shaking hand rested on the handle, but didn’t open it. “It knew everything. The late nights, the lies, the other women. It knew about his drinking, too. It told me...it told me I’d be safe. Happier.”
In one swift motion, she threw the dresser open. Hanging inside, all alone, was a vintage wedding dress in mint condition. It was lovely, all delicate lace and soft edges and white so pure it was nearly blinding. The arms were long and translucent, and the neckline was gently curved. The second the woman’s gaze fell upon it, her eyes hardened. Immediately, a chill ran down my spine.
“He’s better off dead,” she remarked coldly. “Or rather, we’re better off with him dead. Why do women fall into these toxic relationships and just allow themselves to remain there forever? It’s as if they have no self-respect. No, I had to do it, and I’m glad I did. I was far gentler than he deserved.”
A quick glance to the other side of the dresser revealed her husband, eyes wide in death, spread-eagled on the ground with a knife still stuck in his chest, alongside several other stab marks that no longer leaked blood, as his heart no longer pumped. It’s not like I haven’t seen death before, but...the look in their eyes never gets less creepy.
Not only that, but Ms. Meyers still had that look in her eyes. You might call it unhinged, insane, hungry for death or pain or something worse. But for me, it was the look of a curse. The look of blankness, of emptiness, of a person completely not in control of their own body. Of a person to whom the limits of humanity and right and wrong have ceased to have meaning. Ms. Meyers might have said the dress was whispering to her, but this was not just whispering. Whatever was in that dress was in Ms. Meyers, and I had no idea if it wanted me dead, too. Sure, I wasn’t a scumbag husband, but I was definitely intruding, and I’m confident it knew it.
I backed away slowly, nearly tripping over the carpet, sending a jolt through my body. My throat clenched up, and I swear I felt like the dress itself was watching me as I tried to subtly place one of the dresser doors between it and myself. Ms. Meyers’ dead eyes followed me blankly. I forced the words out of clenched teeth. Professionalism, Alex, you’ll get out of this faster, and more alive, if you remember your professionalism. Do your job. “Ms. Meyers, it’s a beautiful dress. I’m...I’m glad you were able to gain your...your freedom.”
“That’s the other thing,” Ms. Meyers said. She was definitely not whispering anymore. Her voice was louder now, approaching a yell, yet still remaining just as hard and cold. Her anger, not hot but icy, frozen, made my stomach clench. “She would appreciate it if you could stop calling her it. Women are not objects, you know.”
The laugh that bubbled out of me was mildly hysterical, and I shoved down the awful feeling in my chest. I was still backing up, which I only realized when my foot hit the late Mr. Meyers’ limp leg and I almost tripped. “I’m very sorry. She is beautiful, and she took good care of you.”
I held my breath painfully. After an impossibly long moment, Ms. Meyers seemed to relax, and some light, some humanity, returned to her eyes. They were quite pretty when they weren’t blank and evil, a nice green. I allowed the green to soothe me. The dresser doors shut on their own.
The tension slipped from the room at once. Feeling as though I’d been released from an invisible vice, I gasped in a breath of fresh air and relaxed, although I definitely did take a step away from the body of Mr. Meyers.
“Ms. Meyers,” I said, still somewhat breathlessly. “I would love to take the dress--” The dresser doors wobbled dangerously. “I would love to take her with me and check her out.”
Ms. Meyers blinked, her eyes becoming dewy again. Poor thing. The influence of a curse tends to leave you with an awful hangover, not to mention the obvious guilt of murdering your husband, regardless of how icky he was. “I’m, um. I’m not sure if that’s okay.”
So, then. I glanced at the dresser. Her nerves made me suspicious that the dress could still exert some control, even out of the line of sight. That was inconvenient. “I do run a museum, Ms. Meyers. I wonder if she would not appreciate the opportunity to meet more women.” There was a pause, and I continued cautiously, “Women with partners, from all over the city. Multiple women every day, in fact.”
Ms. Meyers’ eyes glazed over for a moment, and I tensed, but in the end, she nodded. “I think that would be best.”
“Thank you, Ms. Meyers,” I said, relieved that the dress had apparently given her permission. Either that, or its influence only lasted so long when out of eyesight. Hard to tell, but I was glad for it. “Just relax, okay? Everything’s okay. You did the right thing by calling.”
Short minutes later, I was at the door with the lined bag carefully nestled in my arms.
“Is there anything else you can tell me about her?” I asked. “Anything that may help me?”
It was strange. It didn’t target us in the same way at all. If it had wanted to expand, the way some cursed objects do, it would have exerted its influence directly on me. Instead, it seemed it connected with Ms. Meyers, like there was a trigger, as there often is. I wondered vaguely if it was her feelings about her husband himself. Once I made it clear I wasn’t going to be a threat, it didn’t hurt me, so it must not have been random. Either way, I wanted to get as much information out of this poor lady as possible, especially because you would not catch me messing with that damned thing again.
“She’s beautiful,” sighed Ms. Meyers, and went into a dead faint on the floor. In the distance, her child sniffled.
“Hmm,” I said, and dialed the police. I made sure to tell them that I’d seen someone else fleeing the scene and the wife desperately trying to save her bleeding husband. The timeline won’t be right, and it’ll be overall pretty obvious that that’s not what happened, but the police have long since learned that when someone from my family, adopted child or not, says something, you trust it or pay the consequences. Not her fault, after all. He just ran into that knife. He ran into that knife...about six times.
Back at the museum, Em pretty well confirmed my suspicions: it seemed that the dress carried some nasty energy from a scorned new bride who had died tragically after some sort of cheating-related betrayal from her new husband. As usual, Em got an awful headache after interacting with the thing, leaving me to settle it into what we call the test room. Obviously, before it hits public viewing, it’ll have to be exposed to some visitors on an individual test basis--first one by one, then in pairs, then in threes, and so on. We’ll have to test couples, of course, although we suspect it will only exert its influence on women in unfulfilling relationships. We’ll have to see about same-sex versus opposite-sex relationships, double-check whether it’s actually a visual line of sight that’s the issue or whether it’s physical proximity, et cetera. It’ll be an entire process, but by the end of things, we’ll have a lovely vintage dress hanging in the Hall of the Cursed.
Anyway, I hope to tell you all more about this soon, as soon as I get a break--things keep me pretty busy around here. After all, with every day comes a new vintage wedding dress that convinces you to murder your unfaithful husband.
Or something. You know.
Let it be known this is a lengthy piece. What with the virus facing each and everyone one of us on a day-to-day basis, I understand the difficulties we all face, and this will perhaps be our greatest test in our lives.
With that said, this piece has nothing to do with the virus, but has something to do with each and everyone one of us ... as a citizen.
I am a citizen.
Not just any citizen.
I am a citizen of the world.
I was born in Iran.
I was born in Peru.
I was born in Ireland.
I was born in Albania.
I was born in Malaysia.
I was born in Nepal
I was born in Romania.
I was born in Libya.
I was born in Germany.
I was born in the Ukraine.
I was born in Asia.
I was born in Egypt.
I was born in India.
I was born in Haiti.
I was born in Turkey.
I was born rich.
I was born poor.
I was born blind.
I was born deaf.
I was born hungry.
I was born to suffer.
I was born to please.
I am a citizen of the world.
What I wasn’t born for:
to see destruction of family,
to watch countries, nations,
attack one another;
making others grovel and beg,
remove their dignity,
for the sake of a parcel of land.
What I wasn’t born for:
to allow what we call humanity,
to devour the weak,
instead of building the weak, stronger.
What I wasn’t born for:
when nation upon nation
fight all their wars,
that we should have long-ago ended,
in and for the sake of their Creator.
What I wasn’t born for:
that we as citizens,
close our eyes,
pretending we can do nothing,
when we can do everything,
to end a genocide,
that will one day destroy us all.
I was born in Madagascar.
I was born in France.
I was born in Iceland.
I was born in Australia.
I was born in Mexico.
I was born in Canada.
I was born in Afghanistan.
I was born in Ethiopia.
I was born in Cambodia.
I was born in Nigeria.
I was born in El Salvador.
I was born in Khartoum.
I was born in Korea.
I was born in Italy.
I was born in Spain.
I am everywhere.
I feel everything.
I see everything.
I remember everything.
I grieve for all things.
I pray for peace.
I am, a citizen of the world.
This anxiety is real.
It speaks to me
with a language of such intense
and agonizing seduction
I can comprehend
because I’m quite familiar with it.
Pain has never been new to me!
At night times,
it slowly crawls under
this scarred skin of mine
and deep inside the pits of
where the nightmares dance free
as I toss and turn sleeplessly
on my empty bed alone.
The night times are when
the darkness smirks and smiles gingerly
to show me its other side
without revealing its face.
But I need not see its rainbow colors
for I quite know exactly
what utter desolation looks like
even in broad daylight.
Red Cherry Jello
There once was a scientist named Bellows,
he did research in Antarctica with other fellows.
Between layers of earth in the permafrost ice,
they discovered living bacteria so very precise.
Bellows stroked his beard and laughed savagely -
he knew the bacteria was key to immortality.
But how could he possibility smuggle it from view
with the other scientists trying to snatch it too?
Well, Bellows liked jello, unlike the other fellows,
he liked all flavors but was partial to lemon yellows.
But he knew using cherry red, it’d be easier to hide
so he scooped up the bacteria and hid it inside.
Bellows iced down the jello and laid it on dry ice,
absconded with the bacteria without thinking twice
for he knew this bacteria was unlike any other -
it had arsenic inside, not phosphorous or another.
Bellows extracted the bacteria from red cherry jello
and injected it into himself, feeling quite mellow,
knowing full well that it was alternative life form,
believing it would extend life above the norm.
Bellows first had tried it on fruit flies and mice
and on human blood cells more than twice.
When he tried it on himself, he never caught
the flu or colds or diseases others fought.
Bellows never died, he lived longer than wife
and his children and friends without any strife.
But he no longer knew anyone on earth
with alternate life form ingrained in his girth.
Bellows was lonely so he injected some others,
knowing he wanted friends if he had his druthers.
Everyone was now comprised of alternate life forms,
not so alternate any more but more like the norms.
So Bellows and the new experimental fellows
lived on forever thanks to the cherry red jello
with the bacteria which wiggled and jiggled,
danced and pranced and sometimes giggled.
I'm not sure anyone would really want to know what goes on in my head for three whole minutes but I guess the people who are reading this are interested so here goes. I walked to work this morning which is a weird thing in this new world of ours. There are less people masked then when I walk to work during the week which I find interesting but there are still about 50 percent masked. I mask. It helps with my allergies. I'm not super worried about getting sick but I am worried about other people getting sick so I mask for them too. I am tired of homeschooling and I am so so so so so happy to get back into the office for a few hours every day even though I am annoyed that I was told my computer and phone would have to be returned if I didn't come off unemployment and come back to work but then I have an eight year old to homeschool so I can't work full time and do that. He's not that kind of eight year old. It takes us about 10 hours a day on average to get through our homeschooling. So we made a deal and I come in two hours a day during the week and five hours a day on the weekend days. I'm still on unemployment but I get to keep my devices. That's my time.
Boys will be Boys
The first time I was catcalled I was 13. It was a Saturday. It was my birthday. I was at the Edison mall with my older sibling, shopping for a dress to wear to my birthday dinner. As we approached a kiosk selling custom phone cases, it happened.
The kiosk worker was a large man wearing a grey cotton t-shirt. He had shoulder-length hair tied back in a loose ponytail. He was sweating. It was clear he had sweat through his shirt, so I looked away, embarrassed for him. When I looked back, he was looking at me with a greasy smile on his face. I looked away again. As we walked past the man and his kiosk, I heard a much deeper voice than I was expecting call after me.
He asked me why I was ignoring him. He told me not to be like that. He called me baby. He was salivating over my just developing curves. I walked faster. Tears stinging my eyes. My sibling grabbed my hand and pulled me faster away from the man, from the kiosk, and from my shame.
I was confused. I was mad. I was scared.
I didn’t know this happened to girls so young. I wasn’t even done going through puberty yet and I had already been looked at as an object of sexual gratification. It wasn’t long before I was catcalled again.
My mom leases office space in the yellow building across the street from my school. Before I could drive, it was my responsibility to walk from school to her work after soccer practice so she could take us home. Not that it matters, but I was wearing black soccer shorts, an athletic tank top, and a neon sports bra. As I passed the button at the College Parkway crosswalk, a man rolled down his window and whistled at me. I looked around, confused, unsure if it was me who was being whistled at. To get my attention, the man yelled a comment about my exposed legs. Our eyes locked. He was grinning. Drooling. His eyes left mine and I could feel his gaze travel all over my body.
I was only thirteen. My body in that weird stage between girl and woman.
I don’t remember the second time or the third time, or the tenth or the twentieth. But I know they happened. Again and again, men took it upon themselves to violate me with words or tell me what they would do to me. Once a construction worker offered me money to perform a sexual act on him and his friends. I was only 15 or 16.
As objectifying as it was, words are just words. I can live with words. But one-day words changed to actions.
Junior year, a Model United Nations conference in Washington D.C. The conference had been going great. I had made friends in committee and was looking forward to hanging out with them at the delegate dance, which was in the same hotel as the conference. At the dance, I was talking with a delegate I had met. I won’t say his name. He was my age. Tall. Blonde hair. Dark blue eyes. Over the loud music, he asked me if I wanted to go talk outside and find some water. I naively said yes. We went outside and found an empty hallway. It started innocently enough. He told me he thought I was smart and funny. He stepped closer. He told me he thought I was pretty. He stepped closer. Sensing my discomfort, he closed the remaining distance between us. He asked me if I wanted to go up to his hotel room with him. My cheeks burned, and I mumbled something about having to get back to the dance. I stepped back. He advanced towards me again, but this time grabbed my arm, moving his hand up my shoulders. I was frozen. I said no. He started to drag me towards the elevator, presumably to take me to his room. I tried to yank my arm away but his grip was iron. With his free hand, he groped my chest, squeezing my breasts over my shirt. Tears poured down my cheeks. I yanked again, much harder this time, and I was free. But I didn’t run. I made up an excuse about having to leave, apologized, and went back to the dance.
I always wanted to believe that if placed in a situation like this, I would be brave. I would scream or run or hit the person, but I didn’t. I apologized.
When I told my teacher a modified version of what happened, excluding him touching my chest, she asked me, “How loudly did you say no?” My cheeks burned. My eyes stung with tears. I hadn’t said no loudly enough. I had mumbled it and apologized for leaving. It must’ve been my fault for leading him on or for sending him mixed signals. I racked my brain and replayed every interaction I had with him. Had I been flirting? I had passed notes with him, joking about stupid things I can’t remember now, but my intentions were never romantic. At that point in my life, I had a boyfriend, but I never wanted to be that girl who out of nowhere announces that she has a boyfriend the second a guy starts talking to her. If I had mentioned that I had a boyfriend, the whole thing probably never would’ve happened. I felt physically sick.
The next day was our last committee session. He was there. He smiled at me and waved. Me, hating myself, smiled and waved back. We pretended that last night hadn’t happened. When committee ended, everyone started saying goodbye and exchanging social medias to stay in touch. I turned around to leave, and there he was. Almost in slow motion, I saw him leaning in for a hug. The voice in my head was screaming at me to run. To back away. To do something.
I hugged him back.
It was only a second, but I had betrayed myself. I never ended up reporting him. I didn’t scream. I didn’t hit him. I hugged him goodbye and apologized for making last night weird.
Fact. One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually assaulted before they turn 18. I am one in four.
Fact. Sexual assault is the most underreported crime in America, 63% of assaults go unreported. I didn’t report him.
I want to live in a world where a 13-year-old girl can cross the street without being objectified. I want to live in a world where things aren’t brushed under the rug because “boys will be boys”. I want to live in a world where people can wear whatever the hell they want without fear or judgment because no outfit is an invitation for comments about their body or an excuse for violence.
Since the MUN incident, I haven’t been the same. I was fundamentally changed that day. I’m much more cautious around unfamiliar men. I used to only be wary of men older than me, but now I feel like I can’t trust guys my age either. This is not okay. If you take anything away from reading this, please let it be that things need to change.
I challenge you to be the change. Speak up if you hear something not okay. Don’t catcall anyone, man, woman, or any other gender. Try to reprogram your brain to not make assumptions about a person based on how much skin they show. Try to be better. We deserve better.