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To Be Seen

I’ve never been naked before. Not quite like this.

Different eyes have held this body; sometimes whole and sometimes bit by bit. It never felt like more than a body in front of them, nothing more than dark skin clinging onto bones and splaying out into lanky limbs. They were all reminded of their limits before the lights were dimmed, but not all of them have always complied and instead tainted my body with scars of their sins.

And on some level you believe you deserve it. Your mother warned you of the price of your body, and what he’d do if you stood in front of him. The more layers it’ll take to get your flesh, the more determined he’ll prove and the more likely for him to commit. You don’t need to go about baring your belly and flashing your thighs, and must you insist upon that plunging neckline that showcases your tits? Don’t you know you’re condoning disrespect and violence the second you show a little skin? Don’t you see you’re asking for it?

But while I’ve been aware – perhaps a little too painfully – of the reality of a predator mindset, being naked to me always meant something different. I can unbutton the oversized flannels and peel off my fitted pants, fling off anything worn underneath and still feel shrouded to a degree that’s quite deliberate. For merely the act of stripping does not immediately equate to being naked. Wriggling out of fabric does not free me from the history that shaped my frame, the nuances of every syllable in my name, or the crevices of my being that house the darkest secrets.

Seeing my bare body does not mean you know me, not even slightly. A body that looks like any another, one that you can find millions of renditions of on Google; a composition of skin and bones that is really nothing special. My body has never defined me even if that’s the narrative that’s constantly pushed by society, for its nothing more than a home to the soul that resides within and helps this fleshy vessel breathe. A soul that’s only been greeted for the first time recently.

One that moans in her sleep but scrambles to remember her dreams, and pretends not to be soft yet it takes nothing for her to erupt into giggles. A soul that simmers with anger and resentment buried deep, that’s carefully hidden away, but still swims through occasionally breaking out in ripples. One that’s been bruised and abused and left behind only for her to find an excuse to drizzle cynicism disguised as humor in every other conversation. A soul that only one other has ever known, the only one who took his time to look beyond a physique with the desire to really know me. Who didn’t just ravish what was in front of him, but paused at every intersection to ask questions and for permission, and then kissed it with acceptance. Who knows my body as nothing more than a home he’s excited to explore and meet all the parts of me that exist.

I’ve never been naked before. Not quite like this.

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