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Virginia Is Not Your Home They hung that name on you at birth, but Virginia was never your home. Read Nausea by Sartre and give yourself a new one. Trumpet your new name to the liver-spotted washroom mirror, like a coronation. Gape your mouth then angle your tongue behind your teeth. While you’re at it, work to remedy those other afflictions: that fetid high-hill r that has planted itself in the middle of words like wa-r-sh. Scrub the stink of manure from your clothing and while your young body churns over the basin, keep whispering your new, still-secret name. Believe that if you can just change this, you can change everything. When your furtive girl body begins to unfold, pull your hair back so severely that the boys don’t tug you down below the bleachers. Take to wearing Daddy’s fishing flannels to ward off solicitations to tissue paper dances. Don’t accept it when they ask, Who do you think you are? Don’t accept the moldy hymnals, the marquee salvations. Don’t ache too badly for milk cows in the pasture, their slick contoured ribs pressing through. Take French, lock your doors, and trust in your own 16-year-old self. Fill out an array of applications, but don’t tell Momma when you win a scholarship to an all-girls college toward the center of the state. Instead let the screen-door clap closed behind you. Let the brisk air rush by as you sprint barefooted to the creek bed. As breath stings your lungs and a stitch claws up your ribcage, howl victorious into the night sky. At freshman orientation, chew up and swallow the first nametag they give you. Write yourself a new one. Someday soon you’ll make it official, this new and chosen name. Smile with restraint so that no one can question the slant of your eye teeth— those hidden incisors, white as fresh, warm milk, since according to Momma, there was fluoride in the well-water. According to Momma, she did not expect a girl-child and one light as her after all. 34 | PHOEBE 49.2

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