Miss July Grew Older

By Caty Brown

Art by Camilla Lee

Author’s note:

Over the past year of my life, the world has asked a lot of me. I’ve felt like tree

bending in a thunderstorm, hoping I’m still young enough to bounce back.

The change hasn’t all been bad, and I wanted to write a series of vignettes that

represented what I’ve been feeling: the loss, pain, joy, hurt, melancholy, fear, and

whatever else that can remain unnamed. They’re intended to be a sort of journal

of my thoughts, with particular inspiration from the poem “Miss July Grows

Older” by Margaret Atwood. You’ll find several references to it.

“The easiest way to change up your whole look,”

“I know,” why am I so surprised? I didn’t make the appointment (I love you mom), shouldn’t a change in my look be my own idea? Technically I guess it is mine. But I didn’t make the appointment, only the decision.

I suppose circumstance breeds opportunity. When something bigger than me said the curls “will have to go,” I nodded.

“When I was young I went with my hair” parted deep, but I don’t do that anymore. Split down the middle, split in two, cracked right through the center, that’s what feels right to me. I’m keeping that. That part is mine.

They were cut. (She cut them.) I think I like the change.

I started brushing my teeth again. I didn’t tell my mom about it. Doesn’t the admission seem like less of something to celebrate and more something to mourn? Not something reclaimed, but the confession that at one point something was lost.

“When did you stop?”

I don’t know. (“When I was all body I was lazy.

I had an easy life, and was not grateful.

Now there are more of me.” Some of me is unwelcome.)

But I started brushing my teeth again.

My childhood bedroom caused me a lot of strife. The pink (and the green), the “big ole crystal chandelier!” (they weren’t crystal), the bedspread (hot pink this time), that goddamn clock (that goddamn clock!). How long could I get away with it? “How much longer can I get away with being so fucking cute? Not much longer.”

Drowning in it. “The shoes with bows, the cunning underwear” Leave me alone! folding, knotting, off the walls, Add to Checkout, please let me feel brand new again.

Almost. The bedspread is orange now. The pink is gone.

The clock is still there. That goddamn clock.

For a little while, doesn’t everything seem endless? Somewhere between pressing L and then hearing the ding of opening doors, there is an infinity. A moment where you feel like you’ll last forever, right here (God, I wish I could, how do I do anything other than this? I don’t know how anymore), before you have to get your sheets.

The cycle ended hours ago. (“After a while, you forget what you really look like.” I did.) I left it. It will wait.

Not forever though. But maybe for a little while.

My abs hurt, a day or two ago.

(Was it the walks? The girl I was yesterday didn’t do so many, and perhaps I am going to drown (one day), but for now I am going on more walks. )

But I don’t understand. I’ve mapped my muscles, (how many pieces of copy paper does it take to know the body?) why would a walk affect my abs? According to my diagrams (how many colored pencils, how many songs), that just can’t be it. But I have no more explana-(how many flash cards does it take to know? When am I finished? How much more? “more than this, always more than this”)?

I don’t know. (I really don’t).

But it wasn’t the walks.

The soreness, I noticed, worsened when I laughed. Seems almost like a joke (don’t laugh, it will hurt), the pain in my belly is borne of new joy.

I haven’t done that in a while.

It is so fun, until it suddenly isn’t. I’m clenching my teeth, spitting out half-words: “I think I’m happy with where we are right now.” And I am all but running, gasping, oh girl what have you done, get away. “Men were a skill” I didn’t learn (how was I supposed to?), all I had was “lipstick imprints” (they were never “in the shape of grateful”, damn you boy in camouflage pants), and “sighs on the [pipes] of men I” (hope that I) “knew, and didn’t want to.”

“I notice I am using the past tense.” I am honest, but I hate letting you down (“I think I’m happy with where we are right now.”) Why do I think in currency, (how will I pay up for a man who doesn’t want my friendship)? Men and boys and camouflage pants, and I am never going to be grateful.

She was prettier, I think, than I am. (“After a while, you forget what you really look like”) Maybe smarter, too.

I was in love with her. (I am in mourning)

She slept a lot less, and pretended a lot more. She was the one who got the letters (they’ve been forwarded to me, what am I to do with them? I’m in love with her.)

“I notice I am using the past tense.”

I don’t know if she’s dead. She’s not who I was so in love with, and maybe that’s the same thing.

I grew out of her (I’m in love with her) “and into my common senses.” And suddenly she wasn’t so smart, and I wasn’t sleeping (“the way the sun moves through the hours”), too busy “forget[ting] what you really look like.”

“Don’t confuse me” with the girl I used to love, I do that enough all on my own.