The lady makes music when you spin the top of her body. She’s empty inside but makes a heavy weight on your palm. The lady is gentle and fragile and loud when she needs to be. She is clean and polished but has the decay of many fingers having touched, having used for themselves, in some way.
When I was ten years old, my childhood friend handed me a wooden Russian lady with a fat belly and a stumpy bottom. She was dressed in red and green colors with black hair and she reminds me of what happens when Jesus was born and we sit in church with red on our chests. Abby tells me to open her from the center. The wood from her body squeaks as I pull her apart. I’m uncomfortable, I shake on my mouth, and my eyebrows wrinkle in skin. Abby tells me to open again. I start setting them out on her table that is clear and cleaner than the wood one in my kitchen. It goes from biggest to smallest. The bigger ladies hold the smaller ones, like a mother, into a daughter into a child. The last one left is a little lady, wooden, and in my hand.
I set her down. Abby sits on her carpet and stacks them all up again, quickly, one over the other, three times faster than I unwrapped. I wish every time I was shown something new it felt like this. I wanted to house people in me like wooden girls would.
When I’m older, I haven’t opened a wooden lady in eight years. I tell a boy I’ll smoke a cigarette but I put the wrong side in my mouth. He unwraps me back in my room. He loosens my body and tries to make me move but I’m a rag doll I’m loose with yarn for hair. I find myself on the opposite side of the bed and it’s hard to imagine those workers that made a girl so strong. There I am, on top of my pink comforter Mama bought me that is filled with cotton and feathers. We gushed over this color in the middle of this wide open place, this is my favorite, I tell her. Purity was my wooden woman, and I wanted to set her back out, on her clean transparent table.
There are people, girls, all on this floor. They are next to me and across from me and above me and beneath me. I see that there is a koi fish on his chest in the morning and I ask him what it means. He says strength.
I watch a drip of red on my pink sheets. It looks like two colors I love. I haven’t learned about the muscles a vagina has and the weight and the emotion that is stored in it. It is just a part of my body at this age, like a limb, and everything I’m laying on looks like valentine’s day, and it is the first time I haven’t felt in love with the color of red around me.
The Russian lady with the big waist was taken from the center. She was a wooden woman, pulled apart until she gave birth a million times. The woman got to look at the girl, half her size, wooden, still playing music with a waist that housed statues and made wrinkles in skin. When we used to paint the blackberry tree in the backyard, I wouldn’t think of the centers of us. The three of us would push wild blackberries on our hands and draw things in August. My shorts would fall just below my love handles and squeeze in on the parts I didn’t notice at that age.
My sisters are older and they feel like women from where I stand, if I knew that word at the time. We hold our fingers down the bark of this tree and I stain my shirt with red blackberry juice. Mama gets mad and pulls my shirt from my chest to wash it all out with a dish towel. She wants to know how these kinds of things don’t bother me.
I love red. I never knew red came from blackberries until I knew about girls becoming women and putting fingers on a tree that will never die. Red is strong, red is mother nature. When you take red’s shirt off, you can just see strength.