Issue #54


A Study of Otherness

A Study of Otherness—Isolation and Other Musings

Hanna Webster

I am fixated on the idea of my body seen through other’s eyes. How it curves. The notion that I am desirable to others. How they look at my body and want to feast on me.

His sheets are striped blue, the only light emanating from a small desk lamp. The sheets complement the blue of my veins through my tissue paper translucent skin. Through the dark I can tell he is grinning. I laugh

 As long as they’re nice about it, I let them. As long as they wipe their mouth clean, I’m okay with it. I can give and give and give. They take and take and take. I receive from the image of myself underneath them.

He said, the face you make when you’re having sex is one of the hottest things I have ever seen.

I said, thank you. 

I did not say, I have already seen it, through the eyes of twenty-four others. 

Does that make me a slut?

And what if I am a slut?

Must I then define myself differently?

Dreamer, daughter, friend, slut.

Each man becomes a mirror, a vessel. Putting one hand over my mouth, two fingers against the pulse rhythmically beating on my neck, reminding me to slow my breathing. I am calm again. This is my home. When he becomes a mirror, he is almost not even part of this meditation.

You inside me is where I am most comfortable. When you are gripping my body, and I forget I have one.

Dreamer, daughter, friend, slut.

There are two kinds of dissociation. There is the kind accomplished through meditation, the kind that yogis and monks deem transcendence, enlightenment. Then there is the kind they give you pills for (brain region unknown). I have experienced both. Being with Brandon afforded both—initially, just the first kind. My atheist father would have laughed in my face if I told him that being with Brandon was like returning to nonphysical form, but that was the truth. I basked in every second of its salience.

Soulmate is defined as “a person ideally suited to another as a close friend or romantic partner.” We had surpassed soulmate. Soulmate was a speck below us. Sometimes, I would think about him, and receive a text from him in that same instant. My therapist says that’s because we’re all just a collective consciousness, a drop in the ocean waiting to be returned to a body of water. After three years, my body felt more ocean than drop. Waiting to spill over.

If this notion holds, I wonder what Brandon felt when he undressed me. They do not tell you that even soulmates can withhold their warmth. It became a game. How long until I go insane without him, all the neglected texts cease to matter. Will they ever, or will I soon resort to calling him until he finally answers?

I’m having a panic attack and really need you right now

Tonight’s really not a good night for me

(I thought you loved me)

We’re just friends we’re just friends

(even though I kissed you on the forehead at the bar and called you my soulmate)

You can’t demand this much of my time because you’re not my girlfriend 

I wonder if he inhabited my discomfort when he ripped off my underwear and began to devour me, not even stopping to chew. That time, I didn’t want it. This is not what friends do. I was naked and beneath him when the second type of dissociation kicked in. I said nothing.

Dreamer, daughter, friend, soulmate, slut.

To exist now

as if the softest parts of you

are on display

for the world to see.

To be victim-blamed by the perpetrator

as he pours himself another shot

and texts me things like

“if you have any common sense

and want to avoid a civil court case

just take the post down.”

The nameless Instagram post, in which I discussed fear

I am so afraid to go downtown now

I have lost so many friends

“if you insist on slandering me to people you know


but writing about it is libel

and you will face consequences”

To exist now

no longer understanding the difference between love—

“I have been in contact tonight

with people close to you

people who have told me they don’t believe any of this either

you have no case here.”

—and manipulation

“and beyond all of that

I’m so disappointed.”

If he raped you, then

why didn’t you say anything

The numbers keep climbing as I write, rewrite. Rewrite him. Erase him. A different man in my bed now. Anyone but him. Avoid the thought of him for as long as possible, until therapy on Fridays when I finally cave. Meanwhile, my notebook keeps revealing his name and he is living in Seattle, kissing his girlfriend’s shoulders. I have already either been erased or rewritten. Maybe I was never even there.

It takes practice to turn panic into enlightenment. I etch each day into the drywall, I let myself out of their dirty, bed frame-less rooms, quietly.

Boy with the Blue Striped Sheets later texts, I had fun last night.

I respond, same here.

I do not say thank you for not pointing out the stiffness in my body. Thank you for pretending not to notice those pills I took. The transition is getting easier, I promise. 

Slut. Slut. Slut.