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  • Writer's pictureErin Clark

In the Palm of Your Hand

Happy disability awareness month! Technically it’s disability EMPLOYMENT awareness month. But when I learned that disabled October existed four years ago, something exploded in me. I created and posted something everyday that month. Films, photoshoots, stories about being disabled, my own awareness growing with every post. This self-portrait happened then, it is from a series in which I photographed and then wrote about the most deformed parts of my body. Later the series was curated by an art and literary journal and then displayed as part of an art show. My naked body is very officially art.

This year, the theme of disability awareness month is #RightTalentRightNow. I have no idea what that means. What is a right talent? More importantly how can talent be wrong? Is talent wrong when it is later? All I know is that it is now and I am very talented.

Specifically, my talent is taking pictures of myself. My talent is also telling stories. I am self-employed, so there’s no official employer to ‘highlight’ my 'positive contributions to the work place' (my ‘work place’ is basically social media). However, I am disabled --just like October-- and I like it when you’re all aware of me. So here’s a new story to go with an old selfie about the most deformed part of my body.

The original text for this photo was:

This is my resected ribcage. This one is hard for me. What are those angles even trying to do? Not be comfortable-to be in or look at- that's for sure. My sternum is an apex.

If you trace, slowly, the scar -as you reach my freckle I will feel the ghost of your finger trail across my belly button. If I lie on my right side, eventually my rib bones bow under the pressure of gravity. Popping when I inhale, grating against each other when I exhale. I switch to my left side until the crush of my own weight makes my bones ache and roll over again. Fragile as fuck. When I wear a bra, it's because it's fancy. It pains me. My underwear certainly match. I want you to see it.

You can feel my heart beat like it’s sitting in the palm of your hand if you cup your hand under under my breast and press. But I think that’s the same with anyone so boney.

My ribs, my bones. Shaved and sawed off, a surgical effort to give me more room to breathe. All the twists in my spine, the long scar, my body reinforced with steel. Rebar for bones so my actual bones could undulate without me turning entirely liquid. My heart, pulsing inside it’s fragile frame, a delicate home.

When I see this photo now, I think of a past lover. The first night I spent in his bed, I learned that his body weight created a vortex out of his mattress. I knew that the weight of his body when it was spread evenly above me or next to me was pleasure. Pushing me into the mattress, pressing my hips open, pushing and pressing and somehow releasing at the same time. Like the relief of melting under a weighted blanket, but in the form of a person who says interesting things and is sometimes, thrillingly, unnerved by your eye contact. I didn’t feel fragile under him, pressed against my own spine. I felt like I could be liquid *and* secured. I wanted his entire weight, the full squish. But after, rolled onto his side to sleep, the weight of his body collapsed the mattress, not me, and forced me unevenly against him. When my ribs ached from the twisted crush, I had to pull myself out of his orbit to higher mattress, only to slowly sink back into it. I propped my body with several pillows (he had so many pillows!) and resisted the gravitational pull of his body. And resisted sleep so I could breathe carefully, taking air in in sips and sighing into my ribs to test their position.

In the morning, he made me a latte and brought it to me in bed. I sipped it and stretched out, still naked, waiting for my ribs to re-align. I asked to take a shower. I reached up for him to carry me down the hall to the far away land of his bathroom. I didn’t tell him about my ribs. I kept my body’s secrets. And my body kept other secrets.

Steel against my spine like bars over windows, so no one can sneak in. The glass could break, the breeze might rush in, my heart might beat in the palm of your hand.

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