Gnashing Teeth Publishing

| words that get in your teeth

Girlfriend Costume by Elizabeth Laura Nelson

black and white photo of a woman in a skirt with a flower design and a dark tank top looking up and sitting on stairs

She stands next to her bed in nothing but panties, nothing but sharp ribs and shaking hands,
pawing through a pile of clothes you pulled from her closet, hangers and all

She pretzels herself up, wrestling newly muscled shoulders into sweaters and out of dresses,
studying herself in a mirror she dragged up from the basement, some other tenant’s trash.

In a month she’ll meet you in the city after having her face frozen,
two dozen tiny needles stinging her smile lines into submission.

I wish they could Botox my heart, she’ll say, struggling
to purse her lips around a cigarette you both know will make her puke.

Today her mouth still twists as she stares into the mirror, blinking hard, breathing deep.
I love this one, I don’t want to get rid of this one

In June she texted you a grim-faced picture of herself in that dress on the way to another first date—
In case I get murdered, this is what I was wearing

She presses her palm against the beat of her heart, digs her fingertips into the valley of her clavicle.
I guess it doesn’t fit me anymore

You gather the fabric at her waist, tell her she can have it tailored.
Get rid of it, she says.

You’ll drive two overflowing IKEA bags home, stash them in your closet for a year,
tell her she can always change her mind.

Once you made her cry and she didn’t speak to you for three years.
Now she cries as she confesses she can’t have an orgasm anymore.

A summer spent in and out of strangers’ beds and her body paid the tab.
Now she runs ten miles in the park on a Saturday morning,

buys herself flowers at the farmers market but no food,
posts a smiling selfie on Instagram, all Miley Cyrus bravado,

asks you to come over and go through her closet with her.
Tell me what to do, she begs. Tell me what to wear.

———–
Elizabeth Laura Nelson is a writer, mom, and co-founder of jennymag.com. She lives in Brooklyn, New York with three cats.

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