Jennifer M. Colatosti lives in Pine Lake, Georgia. She is Assistant Professor of English at Perimeter College at Georgia State University, where she co-chairs the Revival: Lost Southern Voices literary festival. Her fiction and nonfiction have also appeared in The MacGuffin, Sequestrum, Connotation Press: An Online Artifact, The Intentional, and Midwestern Gothic.
Colatosti's nonfiction, “Revolution,” was originally published in The Southeast Review Volume 33.1.
just put on your clothes, you’re just a body to him. It doesn’t matter, I’m just a body
You’re in the doctor’s office, paper vest open down the front. This is before your first period, but not before your breasts have become too tender for stomach sleeping. Your mother is at work, so her husband is there in her stead. The problem, you explain to the doctor, is that you’re having trouble breathing. He places the cold head of the stethoscope against the skin of your chest, moves it as if tracing destinations on a map. Breathe in. And now out. Breathe in. And now out. He moves the stethoscope to your back. And again. There is no problem to be detected in your stepfather’s breathing. It is, as always, audible. This much you know about him also: because you and your older sister recently stumbled on his porn collection, you are no longer allowed in your mother’s room without first knocking; before he met your mother, he’d been in court- ordered counseling for molesting one of his daughters—playing with her boobies, your other stepsister had explained. When the doctor finishes his examination and tells you he’ll meet you and your father in his office after you’ve dressed, your mother’s husband says it for you: she’s my stepdaughter.
convincing myself that what was happening didn’t matter and that I was only matter
You’ve broken your no more sex with men you wouldn’t date rule to let this man in your bed. It’s not the first time you’ve broken it, but, you tell yourself, you only have a few more months in your twenties. Two months before, he had wanted to be your boyfriend and you felt he was too clingy. You explained this in an email. Now, he is about to come, and he gasps into your neck, saying I just want to fuck you. I just want to fuck you. Days later, this will become the punchline when you tell the story to your best friend. The two of you will laugh. She will say how ridiculous, and you will be grateful to her for not saying how depressing.
If he could say anything, perhaps he felt that he could do anything too
A man you’ve known since you were both children visits you. He becomes obsessed with the items in your apartment that he thinks should be replaced with better models—light bulbs, your kitchen trashcan, your shower organization system. He asks whether your sister is still a smokin’ hottie. At lunch, he compares the quality of the food to hooking up with a chick and finding out she’s a freak in bed. When you tell him you find the comparison offensive, he asks whether you are a feminazi. He seems to believe it is a real word. Later, when he uses the word again while attempting to give you a shoulder rub, you have to tell him twice not to touch you before he retreats to his own space. You do not sleep with him, but he does not, at first, take that as a sign that the two of you do not have a “future” together. When, after two months of you not returning his phone calls, he emails to apologize for “anything he might have done to offend you” and ask whether you’d be up for resuming getting to know each other, you write back a firm Thank you, but no. See, there was a day on the playground way back in sixth grade when you’d watched him punch his then-girlfriend in the mouth, splitting her lip, and you can still see that thin line of raw flesh, the bead of blood bright against her pale chin.
Author's Note: Italicized section headings are taken from The Wide Road by Carla Harryman and Lyn Hejinian, Belladonna Books, 2011.