I don’t know how to get dressed.
I know how to pull underwear up my legs, hop into pants, put on a shirt, socks, slip on my shoes, and tie my laces. Skip the bra. I know how to clasp necklace after necklace, stack bracelets.
I don’t know which pants or what shirt represents me. My jeans feel too tight on my thighs. Other weeks, too loose. Most days I don’t get dressed. I just stay in my pajamas, bury my fluctuating body in sweatshirts and plaid. My clothes don’t feel like me. I hate the way metal feels on my skin. My jewelry is constricting. I don’t care for the feeling of denim, but this shapeless disguise doesn’t feel like me either.
I have no choice but to cover myself in clothes that aren’t me, so I settle on the ones that may swallow me. If I have to leave my house, at least my face is swallowed by fabric, too.
I am building a nest. It’s a mattress covered in an American Government textbook and my computer and an iPhone charger and whatever novel I’m reading this week and empty plastic water bottles and $30 mascara and my yellow t-shirt, and it’s all buried underneath my white fleece blanket and my floral-stitched quilt. My cat helps me. She leaves piles of gray and black hair that her teeth rip from her skin whenever I leave the nest.
I sleep in my nest, go to school in my nest, do homework in my nest, eat in my nest. There’s a window trimmed in white above my nest. The sun shines through it at two o’clock in the afternoon. It’s the sleepiest sun I know: warm, yellow, constant. My cat curls up in a ball, closes her eyes. I make my way to the base of the window, curl up in a ball, and close my eyes.
My older sister Georgia has grown fond of baking cookies. I have grown because I’m too fond of eating them.
It’s warm in the kitchen: the room is lit by the setting sun. She pulls out the butter, the eggs, the flour, the sugar, the vanilla, and the baking soda. “We’re out of chocolate chips.” She hands me a five dollar bill. My shaky hand lingers above it before taking it from her steady hand.
My younger sister Quinton and I walk on the wavering sidewalk. My foot keeps catching in the gray cracks, threatening to snap my ankle. Quinton waits outside, she’s forgotten her mask. I walk in.
It’s tight inside, suffocating, and my mask is my only source of comfort. It separates me from the shelves and shelves of food that have been squeezed together. Stacks of generic brand flour and sugar and frosting churn around me. I grab the first bag of chocolate chips I find, desperate to get out of there, to go back home.
Only one register is open. I wait six feet behind the woman who’s paying. Someone stands behind me. Then another and it seems that together we might reach the back of the lil’ giant grocery store.
I check back in once it’s my turn to check out. The cashier hands me the shopping bag. I’m careful not to touch his hand.
Ella and I walk home with the coveted bag of Nestles chocolate chips.
The cookies aren’t even that good. We eat them anyway.