:: Click :: I am standing in a baby blue crinkled chiffon dress. It has a big golden bow tied around the middle and I am not wearing any shoes. I have been taught to smile even if I am uncomfortable… even if I hate myself… even if I am unhappy.
:: Click :: I am sitting with four of my friends on a hollow log that washed up on the beach. I am four years old and wearing only my white panties – pot belly in full view. The sand is stinging my skin and I have to scrunch my eyes from the burn of the sun. I am already so self-conscious.
:: Click :: I am wearing a cowboy hat, holding two plastic pistols in my hands. My feet are dirty; I’ve been catching bad guys in the back yard all day. I didn’t realise that the real bad guy sleeps in my mother’s bed. I haven’t caught him yet.
:: Click :: I am trying to pee standing up. I am seven years old and I already know that I’ll be hurt less if I am a boy.
:: Click :: I am looking at a naked woman for the first time. I can’t touch her – my friend says he doesn’t want fingerprints on his computer screen.
:: Click :: I am reduced to a naked photo on my friend’s phone. The screen already has his fingerprints on it – I am not the first. I feel beautiful for the first time in a long time. He asked for it.
:: Click :: The night I kissed her breasts, everything suddenly made sense.
:: Click :: I am clutched mid-arm-wrestle like an animal clutched in violent coitus. The boy who sits opposite is older than me. He is surrounded by his friends. My friends are on the playground picking at their lunch without me. I refuse to shave my legs so I’m not one of the girls.
:: Click :: I take a photo of my private parts. The last time I checked I was one of the girls.
:: Click :: I am sitting in Sunday School and while the teacher prays for our snacks, I pray that he will die.
:: Click :: I’m playing house-house wearing my father’s tie. I’m the man. I’m the boss. I’m in charge. I can’t be harmed. I am untouchable. My teddy bear plays the role of my wife and another plays the role of my daughter. They never say a word.
:: Click :: I am beating my friend with a bat because he stood on my wife and drop-kicked my daughter.
:: Click :: My father is beating me in a small washroom just outside the house. I am three years old. He was always careful not to mix business and pleasure.
:: Click :: I live in my own house now and I can sleep with my bedroom door open.
:: Click :: I hope my own children sleep easily. They don’t deserve to have that small safely stolen from them… no one does.
:: Click :: One day I have a son with eyes the colour of dreams. I am a good mother.
:: Click :: Years later and I am reading a bedtime story to a little girl who is already asleep. The hero is slaying the monsters for me.