(From novel-in-progress, excerpt featured in The Atlas Review, Issue 4)

There was a magazine. The magazine was made for girls like me. It had girl parts inside and it had words that told me how to act. This is how to leave your lover, this is how to get crushed, this is how to line your panties. Are you lonely?


And so I wrote into this magazine with a picture of myself. In the picture I look mighty. My jaw is clenched and my braces are covered by my mouth. I am wearing a shirt with puffy black buttons. My hair is pulled back so that you cannot see it but even without hair I am still a girl.

To the magazine I wrote Hello, my name is Miriam. I wrote that I like to ride horses and I like palming the bottoms of tassels hanging from grandmother’s couch and yes, I would like a real camera for Christmas and yes, I like the smell of a gas pump and yes, I would very much like a pen pal, thank you. The magazine chose me and just imagine it, opening something with your own face inside. Your own shape shining on real paper. You could trace me with a pencil if you wanted to.

Dink was not the first person to write me, but he was the only one that lasted. He told me I was interesting, and for me, that was enough.

I guess you could say this was the beginning.

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