The girl lay on the tiger rug, rosy and naked. The cat’s glassy stare gave back her reflection, its teeth sharp enough to pierce.
Sometimes, when she was alone in the house, she would lie on her side on the floor and fit her throat between the tiger’s jaws to feel the thin sting of the big incisors against her skin.
Your lungs fill & spread themselves,
wings of pink blood, and your bones
empty themselves and become hollow.
When you breathe in you’ll lift like a balloon
and your heart is light too & huge,
beating with pure joy, pure helium.
The sun’s white winds blow through you,
there’s nothing above you,
you see the earth now as an oval jewel,
radiant & seablue with love.
It’s only in dreams you can do this.
Waking, your heart is a shaken fist,
a fine dust clogs the air you breathe in;
the sun’s a hot copper weight pressing straight
down on the think pink rind of your skull.
It’s always the moment just before gunshot.
You try & try to rise but you cannot.
— Margaret Atwood
As they left the room, Claudia turned to me and asked whether I was aware of whom I had been speaking with. It was a weird question to be asked, so I paused for a second before she went on to explain that between the girls she had recognized at least ten distinct identities that had emerged during our conversation. After months of treating the girls, Claudia can easily recognize the nuances of different personae: the 25-year-old hyperintelligent girl, the moody 18-year-old, the mistrustful 45-year-old conservative.