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Monday, June 27, 2022


by Jen Schneider

a group of seven women, all in their late teens, wear white tee shirts of various cuts - scoop, crew, tank – one with spaghetti straps. another with scalloped edges. all on edge. each has a denim bucket hat. each carries a green patent leather (faux) handbag (freshly polished, purchased for $19.99 the night before). one holds a pair of scissors and removes price tags. i sit on a toilet (enraged and in close range / out of sight but not out of fright) and count - sneakers (mostly converse, some ked) and minutes (mostly spinning, some spun). each woman’s tee bears a unique logo: my body my choice; overturn roe - hell no; abortion on demand; abortion without apology; abortion = health care; forced birth is enslavement; shame on you scotus. the letters’ order differ. the order of their message is the same. the women’s bags hold a mix of sundries (bobby pins, breath mints, band aids) and sprays (deodorant - lilac / pepper - precautionary). the women exchange salutations (i’d say good morning but it’s not) and apply sunblock with an SPF of 50 to each other’s bare backs (each has the others’ backs). i am not of them, though i am one of them. each of them is one of me. i know what they carry as well as i know myself. and as little as i know my next steps. one girl takes note of the block print SPF 50 and pauses. fifty years of precedent if not progress / protection if not precaution – gone, she says. the others agree. i take notes (both physical and mental) while i sit in an adjacent bathroom stall, the window’s cover (blinds though not blinded) is open just enough for me to hear them and angled just enough for me to see them, and wonder what to do next. i sit - my middle bent, my legs form a soft v. that my fingers mimic. a cramp pulses and i instinctively smooth the purple corduroy jumper with no waist (a button down, fully buttoned) that covers my torso and jump. i can think of nothing other than rabbits and holes and time and ticking clocks. my eyes track an analog clock affixed to the white cinderblock wall. both hands move – backward. i’m trapped and will soon grow large / the challenge larger. i mouth silent curses and nearly snap. oh dear / oh dear. the women snap photos – mostly selfies – and laugh. their high-pitched voices (of innocence not yet incensed) remind me of a childhood quilt – one with snoopy, hello kitty, and strawberry shortcake patches / hand-stitched. i no longer recognize my own hands – most nails are bitten, all cuticle beds are raw." bed of roses" once a favorite song. i remain on the toilet. wounded though not wasted. and try hard to reclaim a moment / a morning – i don’t know how. the women continue to chatter. one says, we shouldn’t / it’s not the right time. another replies, it’s the only time / we must. and they do - i watch them coat their lips in thick cherry red gloss. i squint and inhale, then flush. i exhale and groan. "bed of roses" plays – somewhere / perhaps nowhere. the women silence. are you okay, one whispers. her eyes track then trace the source of my vocals. their postures shift. i see my reflection (green) in the sheen of her patent leather purse and reply - i do not know. of all the things i’ve ever believed, i’ve never felt more alone.

Jen Schneider is an educator who lives, writes, and works in small spaces throughout Pennsylvania. Recent works include A Collection of RecollectionsInvisible InkOn Habits & Habitats, and Blindfolds, Bruises, and Breakups.