3 ways girlhood smelled

Three. because from age ten to age thirteen I woke up that time every morning (they said it was for no reason)


One: oil. a dermatologist prescribed it for me to rub into my flaking skin (it smelled like peanuts and cold medication and it drifted around and soaked my pillow. three years of dance and I needed it because the doctor said stress was yanking me to pieces starting with my epidermis)

Two: earwax. (that sharp tangy smell clogged me, I couldn’t hear music in ballet class, Mama said the stone they pulled out of my ear belonged on a necklace, but it didn’t fix my deficit—logically, it should have)

Three: Mama’s deodorant. (because when the night felt so empty that stung like nettles and my insides did too, I’d scream at the moon, maybe, but probably not just because its shadow always looked like a burglar. she’d run down with the newspaper and while she read I’d shove my teary head into her armpit and only be able to breathe in little nostrils’ wheezes)


Three because at age three I took scissors to my little body (and cut until they found me in 300 runny pieces)

Three. because I could have done four but three is special, isn’t it?

Riley Borden is a seventeen-year-old logophile from Whidbey Island who avidly reads, writes, and blogs in her minimal free time.

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