Poser by Beth Bates


In a darkened studio, draped in an ill-fitting silk blouse, I sat on a wooden stool and posed. Girl parts aching, I contorted my face into expressions of purity.

“How was your summer?” asked the photographer from behind his giant camera. He clicked away. He didn’t want an answer, but I yearned to give him one. Beneath my petite, dance team girl exterior resided a dumpy, used up chain-smoker in a housecoat. I felt weary and alone.

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” I said. He adjusted the umbrella to light my face and tilted my chin with tobacco-stained fingers.

I needed to unearth the ache, to bring it into the light. A gnawing emptiness yawned, greedy to be filled. I needed help apprehending the adult turmoil that had slithered into my spirit.

I was a baby, and fourteen days earlier I had given away a baby. Per specific instructions intended to reduce emotional trauma, and to minimize proprietary attachment to the child, masked people dressed in scrubs swooped “it” away from my body and rushed “it” out of the room. Fleeting infant song was replaced by the hushed, sober sounds of medical personnel repairing surgical slices.

The blue-eyed Superman anesthesiologist stationed by my side throughout the delivery left to numb another patient. My mother and sister sat in a waiting room somewhere in the hospital, smoking bummed cigarettes, maybe calling the prayer chain.

To distract myself from the stinging needle in my lacerated young vagina, I guided my imagination to the closet of my childhood room and browsed the blouses hanging over rows of stuffed animals. The silk one. I’ll fit in it by senior pictures.

But I did not fit, nor would I, ever. Not in the blouse, not in my own skin.

Comments · 22

  1. The topic could have resulted in a sentimental story instead of the restrained and powerful one it is.

  2. Thanks, kiddos.

    Candace: I’d be content for it to be considered “Nonrequired” reading. (Are you listening, Dave Eggers???)

  3. Beth… the biting simplicity of this short, true story is amazing to me.. It really is gripping me and I feel the need to pull away and think. What amazes me the most is the vividness of the story. I feel it as if I was actually there. And I also regret that I wasn’t there because I distanced myself, for which I am very sorry. It was ignorance and lack of sensitivity to your feelings. So proud of you. Truly.

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