They were everywhere: the I.C.’s. You couldn’t spit without hitting one. You tripped over them in the street, on the train. The population had suddenly doubled. The wealthy were going in for “minimally invasive treatments,” and coming home with gleaming shiny perfectly coiffed “Inner Children” that bubbled behind them like crystal bowls. They all had precious names like “Inny” and “Minni.” Accessories. Glossy head shots of the essential self. Framed and glass encased. Smelling like nothing. I called out sick for a week, sweating and vomiting into pots by my bed. An uneven protrusion out of my left side, tender and red, then black and blue. And one day it burst and there she was. A grubby little thing in rags and no shoes, with blood in her hair and huge glassy eyes. I didn’t ask, but she told me her name: “Is’Shane,” she said. “Is’Shane” Over and over. “Shame” I told friends when they came over to listen to records and get high and fumble at each other’s clothes. I’d lock her in the bathroom. She’d appear with bruises and scratches on her little arms, and once, her neck, and people gave me dirty looks at the grocery store. I’d walk quickly, cross the street dodging traffic, but there she was. Trembling. I stopped eating. I saw spiders in my sheets. Scream and break glasses. She hid under the table. The hole in my side leaked yellow and brown under the bandages. I’m pretty sure my boyfriend should be locked up for kidnapping. He said his I.C. just followed him home one day. He dotes on the thing, reading him stories, buying him candy and bananas, introducing him at parties. Petting his hair. “That’s not yours,” I hiss. He looks at me with the dreamy peace of the stupid. “You’re just jealous,” he says. But I know, because, she’s mine, and I hate her, and it hurts, I know because the hole in my side reeks of infection and I don’t know why it hurts.
Clare Tascio is a writer living in Queens, NY. Her fiction has appeared in Catapult, NY Tyrant, Broken Pencil Magazine, and 580split among others.
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