Most of the time, I hate being embodied. All the time, I hate being a woman. Summer is the worst because I must remind myself of the parts of me that I rather not see. Autumn comes as a relief and I forget that I have knees, that I have legs. I forget the sour stench of sweat, the salty, sliminess of my back slathered in sunscreen. Autumn is cool and clinical and cozy when I want it to be, and I take comfort in sliding my icy, non-adhesive feet against my flannel sheets and slipping them into my microfleece socks. I slink into my wool coat and feel impenetrable and smooth. Poreless and porcelain, like a China doll.

On evenings where we submerge ourselves in pools of poison, I try to forget you. Instead, you brew more potently in my mind than before. You’ve made me feel guilty and I hate you; you’ve made me feel wanted and I love you, and I want some parts of you, too, parts that I picture now amid this intoxicating, overflowing horde of indiscernible bodies. Shadows contour my loneliness as I find my way to your room, and the knocks I knock will resonate until dawn. Why are you here, you say. But it’s clear why we’re here, together, on this sticky evening stuck together. And with the taste of a particular mango vodka stolen from the party downstairs, I share my spit with you, and you let me. In the dark, we breathe together and transform, ragged and monstrous, and you trace my notches. When the air clears, I am liquid—hardly here, porous and permeable and loosely wrapped in hair, rubbing against another in the mud of night. And I gasp for clarity. It tastes of artificial fruit and mozzarella. I forgot that this is the season of decomposition.

Afterward, I can’t stand to look at you and I block your calls. In your absence, I busy myself with my anxieties, of whom I lug under the degenerating specters of old friends. There is depravity in the burnt sienna of the distant hills as they become speckled with snow. You remind me of fermented fruit and spoiled milk, acrid oil from the fat lard of putrid cheese, stretching and bouncing from the nether of a milk cow. If this is the pinnacle of life, then life is revolting. There is nothing to hold onto—meticulously, we senesce.

Then, the blood is late. As the moon ripes to roundness, I wait for the unfurling of my barbaric interiors. Yet it doesn’t arrive. Three days. Across the quad, I step on the carcasses of the dead. They pop and fizz under my leather oxfords as the world decays to the grotesque. Moisture molests the soil, yet the rain doesn’t come.

A mound of panic slowly rises. Four days, five days. I am feverish, wool sticks to my perspiring skin. When I see you, I turn in the other direction, not wanting the reminder that I can no longer pass. You have seen me in my monstrous form and now a monster gnaws within me.

The moon shrinks—still nothing—its light stolen and brazed into the knife in my hands. I am sprawled on the bathroom floor, heaving and sweating with worry at another midnight passed with no blood. In the void, I have manifested my fears into worms. Soon, crepuscular vermin will wiggle into a mound and eat me alive, decomposing my consciousness, corrupting the chambers of my body, snarling and leeching to emptiness. Out, out, out, I say, yet no charms nor crystals work to dispel them. They insist on nestling their sloppy forms in my arteries, twisting upstream as their bodies bulge through my scalp in uneven, squirming lumps. My stomach swells to a bulbous, distorted ball with quivering veins, and the void kicks me with pain. I will not hide anymore. I slide towards the unyielding door as the dark tears at me, drowning, and I wield the moon-knife, carving inwards into the flesh on my torso, which is soft and fluffy, a piece of cake, easy as slicing bread at brunch, and I push the blade in deeper, not wanting to leave any part of them inside. A glass of wine. I shatter it on the floor, a piercing, metallic scream paired with the hiss of my serpents. I reach in and choke them, quivering, trembling—the monster and me gasp—in unison—and the—blood—squirting out as ketchup would—spilling—dying—and I spray my insides with bleach. A shudder. Then I take my needles and sew myself up, neatly and cleanly.

Below, the blood blooms between my legs. I laugh and welcome it, however tardy. I giggle in an expanding pool of scarlet, elated. Remembering my hands, I scoop up the viscous liquid and baptize myself in red. Overhead, the stars shake. I hold my knees, rocking back and forth on the crisp, purple floor, finally clean, clean, clean.

When you reach me, I will have waited for years. You’ll have a bouquet of dandelions in your hand, worth nothing but tears.

“You had a talent for moving gently.”

When the snow melts, we will meet on the far side of the mountain. By then, the glaciers will have babbled into springs. You’ll see me and I’ll bloom for you.

For you. Spring into you. You, you you you you. And you’ll braid lutetianas in my hair.

In Lutetia, in 1945, when the war is over, I look for you in the crowd. Dust laces the past, a coffee cake dressed in cinnamon, softly. On a mystic island, a woman gives you a crown of laurels, an enchanter’s nightshade that fringes your eyes.

I wait for you and decay.