The Grip of a Girl’s Legs

This paper was presented as part of the 2022 Conference of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, as part of the reading "Writing Resilience: A Reading by Neurodiverse Writers," organized by Larissa Shmailo.



The girl’s cut into us before, so we must be cautious, slippery and set down the script beneath razors, black-outs, speed, any drugs that grapple to keep us unhinged.

Terror warps the lifetime above us. Our multiple angles must be written under the skin below the dermis floating among veins, arteries, muscles and bones. A savage place where only the blood can censor us.

We take her places she won’t go. Wrap ourselves around bodies of people she no longer remembers, nor cares to acknowledge. Lurch forward into rooms and announce ourselves even when the rest of the girl resists, an earthquake inside her, the stretch of lava burning through, breaking down her cells into quantum fear that is in process of working up its own formula, imprinting a deeper story, another journal.

Our tale begins as a tadpole. We are fused together inside the womb of a woman who is barely breathing from the conquest of grief that encompasses her. The girl’s mother has bone cancer and only a few months to live. We encase in a fluid of violence and numb-draining tears. We exercise and thrash ourselves through thick water that attempts to annihilate us.

Despite the woman’s imprisonment we start to paddle and become a pair. We remind the world of our imminent arrival by kicking as much as we can. Sometimes the mother laughs when we poke around under her globular belly.  And yes, we survive. We wobble, straddle, stagger, weave and fall.

That doesn’t end once we long-limb run, jump, leap and battle wounds. The girl capsizes herself with alcohol, Black Beauties, angel dust, sex with strangers, and slicing. Darkness barely discusses her. Blood covers our kneecaps one night from smacking into a lamppost. We buckle under her when she passes out. The next morning someone scrapes her off the ice and to the hospital while screeching gulls batter inside the girl’s head. Too late for stitches. We bear the pain, the scars.

The girl’s suicide can’t find its way. She jumps buildings. We bear down to keep from cascading down the side onto the cement far below.  Arms above us grip the edge of the building as we search for a protruding brick to hold our weight.

Tired veins start to cry. If we aren’t allowed to run unrestrained, blood will pool, valves will weaken and venous walls will stretch, become floppy. Varicose veins strain against the surface of our skin, torture and dilate.  So, rebellion is beginning. We force the girl to move where she doesn’t want. Plunge her, legs first, into anxiety.

She is burdened with thoughts of lunacy. Matricide carries craziness in its blood. Dad slaps the words till Mom swallows her female whole. Things might or might not have happened to the girl. It is too far back to reach and she refuses to try. She hears voices she shouldn’t recognize. She is constipated by new situations. Her vocal cords abandon her when she is asked to speak.

We drive her to the university. She shuffles down the hall to registration. There is no stopping us. We sit in front of a computer. No budging until she makes the right choice. Hands and arms are working with us. This is a case of survival and all limbs are on to her. Once she types in the buttons, we walk her to the window to seal the deal. She pulls out her wallet with gritted teeth. Hands the woman behind the glass window her student ID.

“Speech class,” the woman says.

The girl opens her mouth, nods, and imagines running away. Computations are made and we are on our way out of the building. She will make each and every class.

We rev up the engine. The girl is ready for the closest liquor store. She doesn’t know where next is, but we do.

Enough with the pills. The razors. The black-outs. We know what it’s like to be stuck in erasure. Realize we are going down. Poison builds inside us. Sharp objects nullify us. The girl lays in bed. She doesn’t move. We cramp her feet, sometimes her calves. We spasm into restless leg syndrome. Force her to get up.

She can barely stagger to the medicine cabinet. Instead, she puts on pants and gets dressed. She opens the phone book and her finger traces a line, stops at a name. It’s her psychiatrist.

We run her to the car again. She finds this absurd and smirks. We are lighter in step. We even make her skip, just for the hell of it. The girl is shocked by what floods over her. Bathes her in a strange flutter of light.

We know what it is. We record the movements. Something she hasn’t felt since before we were a tadpole. Relief.



Previously published in Fictive Dream.



Meg Tuite

Meg Tuite's latest book is White Van from Unlikely Books. She is the author of Domestic Apparition (San Francisco Bay Press), Bound By Blue (Sententia Books), Meet My Haze (Big Table Publishing), and Bare Bulbs Swinging (Artistically Declined Press), as well as five chapbooks of short fiction, flash, poetic prose, and multi-genre. She teaches workshops and online classes through Bending Genres and is an associate editor at Narrative Magazine. She is also the editor of eight anthologies. She is included in the Best Small Fictions of 2021. Her blog: Meg recommends Pathways of Healing Animal Rescue.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Tuesday, May 3, 2022 - 14:09