cool girls

caitlin conlon

Angie takes her shirt off in Molly’s bedroom and because I’m sixteen and avoiding mirrors, I take mine off too. I’ve never been kissed and I think being cool will solve all my problems. Cool Girls take their shirts off at parties. Cool Girls don’t think, they reflect. As we compare ourselves I wait to feel something and am still waiting. Molly keeps her flesh-colored bra on but, in the spirit of being a Cool Girl, slides the right cup over with her fingers to reveal one mound. I’m trying not to look for too long at anyone’s chest but I’ve never seen bare bodies that weren’t mine in person, before. I’m moonlighting as a wildlife explorer, glancing between skins, my heart a feral animal growling above my abdomen. There’s so much anxiety scratching at my ribcage, adolescent grievances begging to be let out of my mouth but, right now, what’s important to the Cool Girls is that I have the biggest areolas. Angie points this out, not unkindly. She doesn’t use the word areolas, though. She says nipples. As a teenager you hardly have the language to say how you hurt, let alone identify your biology. Later that night, alone in the bathroom, I lift up my cotton pajama top and examine my breasts with gentle hands. Squeezing, and tugging. Imagining how it might feel to be touched, noticed, with purpose. Do I have to like my body to live with it?

The truth is that sometimes, even now, in the middle of the night, I wake from a dream and think I’m still there. 

Standing breathless in a hushed room, begging everyone there to see me.

Caitlin Conlon is a poet and avid reader from Upstate New York. She has a BA in English and a Creative Writing Certificate from the University At Buffalo and, while there, was chosen for the Friends of the University Libraries Undergraduate Poetry Prize, and the Arthur Axlerod Memorial Prize for Poetry. She has previously been published with “Olney Magazine,”Anti-Heroin Chic,” and “Rust + Moth,” among others. Her debut poetry collection, “The Surrender Theory,” was released in 2022 with Central Avenue Publishing. You can find her online almost anywhere @cgcpoems.

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