Private in Public

Brilliant illustration by Tamisha Anthony

Magda almost tripped on the frayed, pink thread that hung over the side of her ballerina flats. The pretty bow on her left shoe had come undone and the newspaper she was holding blocked her trembling feet as it rested on her stomach, which curved forward as a result of bad posture. That posture made it obvious to anyone paying attention that something weighed upon Magda with an unsustainable heaviness. So she walked blindly around the history section of the library with her face buried in the newspaper. The split-second, off-balance motion of the trip pulled her, together with that heaviness, even closer to the image she was trying to make disappear. ‘That’s not me’ she kept whispering to herself, leaving her lips to move along to the sad song of those three words, repeated like those of a magician. She thought if she said it enough times the name under the photo would morph into Maria or Maggie. But it didn’t. There it was, the perfect line connecting her third rib to her nipple–which was thankfully hidden by her thin, hardly-decipherable triceps. It was the only thing she was thankful for in that moment. Everything else she regretted. She regretted allowing the photographer to convince her that her hip-height was rare and that the she was a ‘natural work of art’. She regretted not stressing it enough that she didn’t want to look seductive or be too revealing. And she regretted not realizing from his pictures on Facebook that he had an unmistakable fascination with the parts of women’s bodies that she considered private and forbidden. Her heart started to race as she imagined her picture being shared on the walls of all of the people she knew, the contours of her breast, which she herself wasn’t at all familiar with, fixing itself in the minds of hundreds of people. How the men, already in heat from the oily bottoms and perilously low-riding shorts of the other, uninhibited, models, must be finally reaching their peak as they glimpse the caramel-brown of her always-hidden breast. Always, until that picture was published. She raised her head and lowered the paper over her chest, feeling just as naked standing there in the library. She caught the eye of a young man working on his computer nearby. He winked at her and she jumped backwards, crumpling the paper, losing some of the sheets to the pale, carpeted floor. The man scurried over to help her pick up the scattered newspaper pages and was baffled to see Magda frozen in time, her eyes glossy, staring straight at one of the pages. He followed her gaze to the photo of her, immediately making the connection. He gathered the sheets together in a nervous haste and pushed them into her hands. She clutched the disheveled pages and said nothing. But before going back to his desk the young boy whispered, ‘I have you say, you have the most majestic body, like that of an angel.’