In the spring of my 27th year, just after I married my husband, I grew magnetically attracted to accidents. It only persisted a few months.

I started as a watcher. Exactly one week after my wedding, I was shopping at the local Goodwill. As I stood at the register, watching the woman scanning my items, ambulance horns ripped through the store. One store employee ran outside, then back in. He spoke in whispers with the woman helping me.

“My God,” she said to me, as she scanned my 5th item, a polka-dot skirt.

“What happened?”

She scanned my last item, a striped button down. “A car ran off the road into the coffee shop just 20 feet across the street,” she pointed, “and a woman is stuck under it.”

“Oh my god. That’s so awful. Oh my god how horrible.”

“People are crazy…People need to be more careful. That will be $42.50.”

“Sure.” I slid my card through the slip, though a part of me wanted to push the items back across the counter.

I walked out of the store and saw the SUV smashed into the corner of the coffee shop. Maybe a hundred people stood around staring at it. I knew that between the coffee shop and the SUV was a woman, but all you could see were her feet sticking out underneath.

In the next two weeks it really picked up. I witnessed accident after accident. A man slipped on a cheese and cracker sample at the supermarket. A little girl fell off her bike and landed on a neighbor’s dog. It all became too horrifying and I decided to stop leaving my house.

For a few days it was quiet. Then the accidents started happening in my home. They started small. I put cumin into cake mix thinking it was cardamom. My hair got caught around a button on my sweater and I had to cut it free. My left thumbnail bent back and broke when I tried to press my allergy pill through the foil packaging.

I stopped using sharp knives, the stove and the oven, I walked slowly around corners, I only drank water, I kept my hair tied back at all times. Accidents still found me but less and less. I felt safe and often forgot about my magnetic problems.

On the 12th of April, there were no cakes left in the house so I decided to have two mandarins for dessert.

My husband was doing some work on his computer in the other room and, waiting for him before getting into bed, I took out some embroidery work. Sitting cross-legged on the couch I sewed through tough fabric with my fat embroidery needle, stitching x’s in and out. When the fabric was too stubborn I used the thick inner seam of my jeans as a sort of thimble to help push the needle.

I stitched the x’s in and out. I used the inseam for leverage. X in. X out. Inseam to lift. I was going through a particularly rough spot and so, balancing my fat needle on my inseam, I pushed with all my might. To my surprise, and horror, the dull end of the needle tore straight through the inseam and lodged into my thigh.

Thinking this would be the extent of the accident and the agony I pulled as hard as I could but the needle wouldn’t come out. I tried again. Then again, then again, but the only thing pulling was my skin. Envisioning all the skin around my needle splitting and growing dizzy I yelled for assistance.

“IT’S IN MY LEG! IT’S IN MY LEG!”

A few seconds later my husband rushed into the room.

“Are you ok? Did the cat get you? Is it a charley horse?”

“THE NEEDLE! IT’S IN MY LEG!”

My husband kneeled down and tried hard to pull it out, but once again it wouldn’t budge. He tried for about thirty minutes and when that didn’t work he called an ambulance.

The doctors performed an emergency surgery. When I awoke and looked down at my leg, the needle was still in there. Now with some creative x’s stitched around it.

“I am so unbelievably sorry but we could not remove the needle from your leg. You see, it fused straight to the bone.” Bandaged up they sent me home.

It took me months to get used to my leg. Eventually my skin grew over it and it stopped causing me any discomfort. I needed to have special pants made, but I really don’t mind the look. I even think it’s kind of cute and when I wear short skirts and things I tie bows around it. My husband says he likes it, too.

It wos one of those nights. Could caress cherry heat thru yer eyeballs if you shut ‘em. It’d been a slug crawl to this place. Fat bus on a road slim as a pinkie. I don’t much like boiling. Makes me feel loozy.

The spot was an old kiddies summer camp, type that reeked of mustard dirt. We’d be rooming here next two days, m’boyfriend, Poppy, ‘n me. Us and th’rest of th’floppers from th’bus. They showed us to our rooms in the sad low bildings beiged with that raised vomity touch. Rama, our escort, she told us not to droop in the cradle fore dinner, but Poppy loves to play dead so he got right to it.

He fell faster than me, he always does, and also I was fussed killing all th’ spiders. Wasn’t looking for blood, minding my own business scrubbing my pearlies clean, when I noticed a pretty tiny baby at th’end of the brush. I don’t have twenny/twenny if you smell what I’m steppin’ in, so I had to get real close t’see. I squashed that tiny and kept brushing. But soon there were tinies everywhere, on the sink, soap, tub, dangling meatlike front of the mirror, I had to crush em’ mad with all fists and fingers. When I blowed to Poppy bout all th’ hatching allhe did was smucker his lips n turn over.

W’were sposed to meet Rama out the front at six but twos a neat sixfifteen Poppy and I bumped out th’ door. Rama wos pissed all sandy like we stole er twenny dollers, nd she’d sent th’ others off t’the dining hall alredy. It wos up a ways to dinner when sudden I had to pee so bad I was foldin’ over.

“Miss? I’m gonna split iffi don’t use the toilet.”

God, she wos a real see y’next tuesday, pretended not t’listen.

“Miss? I’m gonna split!”

With a face sour as gone milk she sent Poppy off up th’ road and did me a real special honors showing me t’the nearest toilet. She’s a real gorm that one.

Anyway, she showed me over real slow to the facilities, sploiting th’fact I didn’t know this vomit hall from the next. Th girls’ toilets were tucked int’the side of some old school building, only twostory spot in the dump. Wasn’t a door, just a hole, with stairs lumpy as teeth leading down. I was a bit friggie, twitching nervous like. None of th toilets I’d the pleasure of pissing at in this desert’d been up to my standards. Not one.

Rama disppeared down th hole and I, all pleased with m’self I membered to lug mypurse, feeled th side of it fora wad of neat booger papers. They were in there all right. I mosied down th hole, too.

As iwas halfway down th’steps, looked to my left and was an open cluster offour toilets, nowalls, nodoors, noprivasie. There was four girls in four white nightgowns, real antiquelike, all kneeling round th’toilets. Knees poking th muck sopped floor, elbows butting th’ pee greased pink toilet seats, hands tickling down ther throats tryn to puke.

“Evn worse than th’others…” I puffed to myself, pinching my nose pits tight asa fist.

Ther was a dumpy galoshing sound out one othese sicky creatures and she pulled er head outta th toilet to look upat me. She wiped th’soup off th side ofer mouth with a hand. It really wos a bit much.

Rama was crossed elbows taptapping her foot in th corner, waiting fer me to find a hole orpiss mysself, so I stomped along th rest of th stairs and int’the next room to my right. There was more toilets in th’open. These were blue. Some big balloony n’ stout, others tall and tapered asa candlestick. Some yellowones wer lifted up onto th counters like sinks. Most these were empty, anyhow, more ofa selection, craving amoon.

I climbed up t’one of the sinky ones and ther wasn’t papers in sight, so I peeled out my own from’my firstrate handbag and bgan to line th’seat. Real pritty brown alligator. From’my grandma. Horror like, th papers just soak’d cause th pot was splashed inyellow. Rama still crossed elbows wos practiclly rolling her eyeballs out th’sockets. That’s when I started fevering, panicky blotting up the godawful mess till I ranout of tissue.

“Miss? Miss? Is thernot paper for th’toilet?”

She pointed t’a wicker baskit nextto me. It wos filled to th brim with hankies ripened special with all diffrent names scribbledin threads. RJH, GB, TL, KSP… I lifted one fora tighter look. As isaid before, my eyes’re no good.

“It’s wot they use here,” Rama grumbled, seeping her spine further intothwall. Disgusting... T’willingly choose torest against that muggy gunge...

Nightgowned loonies were still speckled allaround. Puking up or gagtrying. I grabbed fer some more hankies but lostgrips of my poor skirt. It soaked in piddle th’side of th bowl and I honest thought to sob. My pritty skirt. All cloudsof blue, brown, white wool checkered now sunked and swamped.

I tried t’go, I really did. But thewet and th yellow and th sticky clam it all made me toosick.

“Yor too late,” Rama grizzled, shoving herself off thdirty wall. “You’ll haveto eat with th girls.”

Thir supper room was next over from th toilets. Theywere all scattered round th dumpish cafeteria, pisstains on th’elbows n’ knees of ther white nightgowns, hair in ther mugs, gobblingdown chickin soup.

I didn’t sat withem. I, th’treasured guest, had a table all t’myself. Infact, I didn’t sitat but satatop my own table. Iwos perched up, hugging th’clouds of my skirt, glancing down my nosehairs atth’ sloveling puppets below. I didn’t even havet’use my gob. I squatted likafrog over my bowl of soup n’ slurped it with m’other piehole- give you aclue.

One girl starred upat me, face and hair drizzling in soup, “Why’re you pissing inhere? Itt’s repulsive!”

Some ofth’other ones looked up, too.

I, abit peeved but working solid t’keep mycool, looked er straight iner face. “I am eating, too,” I said. I clutched myskirt up closer round my face and dug myseat abit lower into my soup.

Th’ fruitcake seemed pleased enouf w’this answer. ‘Nd witha smug look went back to er drinking.

I am 12 years old

I may never make it to 13

I don’t want to be a woman

I don’t want to wear special pants

I don’t want a snake between my legs

Writhing and hissing

Flicking its tongue past my bellybutton

My sister and my mom tell me “it’s ok”

“Every woman has one”

I don’t want to walk with my sisters

Their heads swaying side to side

Feeling the weight on my pelvis

Not me

I may never make it to 13

I don’t want to be a woman

With a hole cut in my pants

For my new limb to breathe

I don’t want to feed it

Tiny pink mice

“It’s my body!”

“It was mine first!”

That’s what I would tell it

But they say it takes a lot of energy

“You will be tired” they say

“But you will be happy” they say

But I hope I never make it to 13

I don’t want to be a woman

Walking with all my sisters

A sea of us

With the heads bobbing side to side

The weight on my hips

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