To Be Marked 

Design by Anasthasia Shilov

She has a large birthmark on the right side of her lower back. I see it whenever she bends down to pick something up and her shirt lifts up, or when she lays on her stomach and her sweater folds against her chest. Her birthmark is large—the size of my hand—and slightly darker than the rest of her body, like a stain of dilute iced coffee spread across her skin. It’s misshapen too, as if I had dipped my hand in chocolate and pressed my palm against her lower back. The chocolate leaks from my skin to hers, and I immediately change my mind, curling my fingers toward my palm. Still, the print stays, washed and faded to the color of pecan shells, made sloppy by my anxious fingers.

If she were a queen, I imagine she would have a different birthmark. In fact, I imagine she would have no birthmark at all. Queens don’t have birthmarks. They have skin so smooth and so blank that attempting to mark it would require too much thought and would incite too much doubt. Even the best artists must sometimes wonder if they should leave the canvas blank. Some will not. In these rare instances, these instances when one decides to mark a queen, I imagine the birthmarks would be mere black dots—periods stolen from the ends of sentences and stamped instead on the insides of their thighs. Her brown birthmark wouldn’t do—a clumsy brown crayon drawing shoved between rows of tiny black periods.

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