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March 29, 2021 Fiction

Thigh Gap

Lucy Zhang

Thigh Gap photo

She gives me a pocketknife. It has an ergonomic handle with smartly placed finger notches, a nice stainless-steel blade that folds up, a sturdy, low-riding pocket clip—perfect for those inconvenient moments you need to cut something loose. I think about all the stupid women in horror movies, their knitted sweaters tangled with tree branches, their fates at the hands of a serial killer. How many lives could be saved with this folding knife? How many grandma-eating wolves maimed, brambles and thorns cut down, ugly stepsisters decapacitated? You can use this to carve out your thighs, she tells me. She draws a wide arch in the air with the flimsy stick she calls a wand. Like this, she says. One uniform curve, from start to finish. But I know it’ll take more than one cut. That night, in my room, I shake off my sweatpants. I start the knife at my knee and angle it just slightly inward. I don’t want to cut off my leg. I maneuver the curve in and then out, ending a breath away from my labia. The severed skin is almost crescent-like. I face the mirror, placing my feet together so that my accessory navicular bones touch. Through my thighs, I can see the bedpost, the corner of a women-in-leadership book I’ve never read, the sleeve of a hoodie too thin for this weather. The carpet begins to get soggy beneath me. Tiny red foam bubbles form near the balls of my feet, as I shift my weight from one side to the other, and blood trickles down like a heavy period. From my window, I can see the patio, the iron table, the cardboard box on the table containing slabs of pork belly dangling from twine. The pork belly has shrunk to less than half its size, condensing the soy-sauce and Shaoxing wine flavor. It had so much to lose, I marvel. I slice up my other leg, my hand now more practiced, the cut more linear, more precise. I look through the gap between my legs again. This time, through the hole, I can see parts of my mattress, the entire spine of the book, the dented metal zipper of the hoodie. I withdraw the blade and slip it into my cabinet. The ballerina music box sitting on top sputters out a note. The gap seems to be getting bigger as blood trickles out. What percent of the body is fluid? What if I cut too close to my femur? I want to ask. But she has already left, as she always does, right after providing a solution and idiot-proof instructions, in a dusting of twinkles and glitter. Is this about right? I bend over and carefully fit my fist between my thighs. Neither my knuckles nor my fingernails touch the wounds. The gap isn’t even that wide, but I feel like I could be swallowed into the opening, spit out the other end, and I’d turn around, look back through the opening, find it no different from where I had begun. 


image: Olaf Simons, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons