Hidden Cartographies

Rachel Yoder

I could always locate my mother by looking for the bright red spot on the pale curve of her foot. Here, I said as I pressed it with a fingertip. Here.

Other towns populated the fields and rises of her body. These are the places to which I could travel when I grew up and left. Here, she said as she touched a black dot on her stomach. Here, again, as she pointed to her forearm. The names of these places were not yet assigned.

She taught me the red spot on her foot had been there since the beginning of time. It meant she had been born and was alive. I had no such marks on my body and feared growing one as I slept. If I were to do such a thing, this meant I would be like my mother: incalculable. I did not want to be like my mother. I wanted only to be like her daughter and to remain this way.

I owned my mother as she owned me. See, this hair was mine, its blackness and its curls, the ends still dark and wet from the bath. This skin beading oils. See her high cheeks and neck to touch, how cool her neck is, the strange quietness of her breasts. Her flat white stomach and then the thicket of hair. Her calves tapered down to tiny ankles. Her bare, bare feet. I turned her hands over in mine and rubbed the smoothness of her nails. Oh how I loved her fingers. I thought her hands were beautiful but she told me they were ugly. This was when I learned we could be different instead of what I had always known to be true, that we were exactly the same.


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