Tina - Carrie Guss

Tina, Trapped and Released

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Tina had a body like a bunker, little tennis ball tits bound close to her chest and unshakeable. She looked like somebody had pressed down on her from above. Like God had, maybe, pressed her head down into her tight neck, her broad shoulders, kept pressing and pressing until everything shifted and settled to become an object, hard and rectangular and meant for storage, meant to insulate or be insulated, compacted and at rest.

“Depression can lead to compression.” This my mother’s explanation of Tina’s body, and she would know—a lifetime spent depressed, her body something flimsy from a gym, a door you can’t bang shut, forever leaking judgments and benedictions where they did or did not belong.

Tina’s parents had been animal rights activists, the wonky kind, a little misguided and well meaning and under informed. ‘Had been’ because, irony wanting what it wants, they were trampled to death by an elephant at the zoo when an attempt to ‘liberate’ the animals went awry.

After the incident, Tina’s parents haunted her. They climbed inside her, demanding protection, demanding not to be forgotten. Like any good bunker, Tina took them in and stowed them away. She built her walls higher and tighter and thicker. Her skin grew taut and impenetrable.

I never once heard her speak a single word. I imagined it all, the accouterment and accumulation of a single human life, all those sentences she never spoke, imagined them piling up inside her, floor to ceiling, head to toe.

I was sixteen and bored and I was waiting for her to burst.

“A bunker will not burst,” my mother said. “That is the point of a bunker. You may be confusing ‘bunker’ with ‘balloon’.”

But what did she know—a lifetime away from high school, first kisses and first cigarettes, first nights spent puking quietly in someone else’s bathroom, first art class X-Acto knives toted home to scratch the ankles, the thighs, the insides of the arms, to try to peel off the skin, to climb out of the little bone prisons.

tinaWe were all trapped in our bodies, but Tina had it bad. Tina was going to go. Someone had to go. We could all feel it. We needed it. We needed to see that it could be done, that a body could be shed, that there was something else out there for us, something even better, maybe.

I was, of course, in love with Tina, and did not want her to go. More than anything I wanted to seize her stiff limbs and warm them, wanted to waltz her and swing her about like a ragdoll until she spun right into me, until we merged. But we never even touched, because Tina did go. My mother sat me down before supper. “Tina has taken her own life,” she said. Taken it where? I wondered. I have always wondered. I have asked, but no one has told me. No one will ever tell me.

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Carrie Guss is a Canadian writer and artist with illustrations and photography appearing most recently in Lucky Peach, AOL News Online, and SmokeLong Quarterly. She has another, shorter story forthcoming in NANO Fiction. You can access her portfolio online at carrieguss.com

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