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Just one bite

She looked inside the glass case, where the bakery’s newest offering sat on top of white plastic lace. Only two were left, pure white rounds with misshapen shocks of cherries in the middle, minne di Sant’Agata cakes. She knew what they meant, how the bad guy had ripped off Saint Agatha’s breasts because she loved God too much to fuck him. Sordid, but it's all in the past. She had been nibbling on the cakes throughout the week.

A thin white glaze gave way to crumbling shortcrust and the star, a creamy glob of ricotta, chopped chocolate, and candied orange peel in the middle. The cherry, she saved for last. After the filling’s dull sweetness settled in her mouth, she brought the syrupy fruit inside. It was bitter, but she was expecting it to be.

Mindlessly consuming sugar on the weekends was the highlight of this job, possibly the only one. But she needed the money (they paid in cash), and the owner let her take home leftover biscotti at the end of every shift. She was usually hungry, since she was in grad school.

And she liked freeing the nipple in her mind—the more familiar she became with fake nipples, the more she felt like she understood the real ones. What made them so exciting, so punishable. Why they had to be molded in sugar glaze forever, until every deer died. She began imagining what it might have been like to be Agatha, crying and disheveled with both pale breasts exposed. She'd feel free in her helplessness, she thought, like a rubber ducky on a wave.

But then there was the problem of the man: his eyes would harden and rust while she shook her head “no” more and more insistently. His eyes would sparkle like a taxidermy wolf’s while watching her confidence waver, his dead resolve solidifying.

He was going to take her body. OK, so go ahead. She was going to grow her soul— look, I can see it forming now, like a bubble, shimmering in soapy pleasure. It's flying away, over the ribbons and the rainbow. It's coming in from my neck…

Her heart started beating faster (she heard it in her ears) but a fly buzzed around her lips and freed her. It wasn't real, it's not real. She was safe; she was with cake. But she stared at the case harder, still, hoping that the sun would illuminate more secrets of the sweet tits.

Her palms were slick as she swatted the fly out the open door. There was no air conditioning in the bakery, so she liked leaving the heavy wood front door a little open in summer; think of it like a V-neck. Today, she shoved a cloth-covered copy of Nicomachean Ethics in its frame. It made for a perfect-size door crack, and that’s all Aristotle was good for. He never taught her anything useful about breasts. Not ricotta white like a saint, but brown butter.

If her body was a cake, her minne would be glazed in orange caramel, with one dark chocolate-covered raspberry for the tippy top. She glanced down at herself, noticing the bruise that sprouted from her advisor’s kissing. He had recently asked her to undress in front of him, two days ago, in his office. She had known something like that was coming since he first told her she was running out of time with her thesis.

The bruise was turning mottled purpley red, like her breakfast toast, covered in cold butter and berries. They'd been weeping in her fridge. She was always keeping berries too long, holding on to them until they made deep pink stains on her nails and fingers while she ate in class. She was always being a martyr that way, he said.


let's go back
to the book spine
covered in dust

in your heart
in your neck on my eye
i fucked the other guy
too, with both of my hands

covered in my favorite stars—making
it into another one of
my nights


I want to live
at the bottom of a blue
watercolor tray, swimming
to the core of the thing, the secret gathering that
all girls know about after age 13. My invite never came,
and I’ve been alone ever since. When you came around
with a pink stick of licorice, you didn't share, not unless I asked
for it. “I'm thinking about cream puffs,” you'd say.
milk chocolate won’t get us to the promised land,
you'd say. My breasts are getting smaller,
I'd notice, but that didn't bother you. I’m turning into
a chamber orchestra conductor with a hula hoop,
and I lead the room. I’m growing up and thinning out
and you’re laughing at me, “How silly can you be?”
There won’t be any cake. The caterpillars drag
their baby bodies through the chocolate
dirt when no one is looking. So now I'm looping
the parking lot hoping to find, I don’t know,
some starlight…

But I only find you again,
smiling. No one wants to say it, but it’s there in the background,
and in your smile. That's what it always comes down to.