How Then

by Anna Vangala Jones

1.

It was little Parvati who first tested out the “walk a mile in another man’s shoes” theory. She learned it could be done at dusk in the shadowy lot bridging her small town’s drug store and yoga studio.

2.

She’d been imagining her older sister, Pooja—her fair and lovely skin, her liquid orb irises that cast moonlight on all in their path—when she remembered the perky platitude.

So she crammed her wide feet into her sister’s spotless Keds at just the time, in just the place.

Her bones and limbs lengthened until they almost splintered. Her ribs ached as the chest perched above them grew heavy and full. Her lips swelled as her belly curved inward. Her cheeks hollowed and bloomed pink. Her eyes shimmered.

3.

Little Parvati had never been the object of so much attention before. Never shrunk under the gaze of so many hungry, intimidating, demanding creatures. Never heard so many words reduce her to nothing more than a pair of breasts and legs.

She remembered the night her sister came home from a date with her eyes wet and her skirt torn. At the time, Parvati thought Pooja was silly and vain to cry over such a mild injury to her precious clothes.

The breath of the monsters hot on her skin, Parvati shivered in her sister’s shoes, until her borrowed bones rattled. She wrenched herself free of their insistent fingers, certain of what she must do.

4.

Parvati stared at her reflection in the store window, cringing and wincing, as she scarred her temporary face with a rock.

She had to see to it that her sister’s beauty could never hurt her again. They would be plain and safe together.

Anna Vangala Jones is an Assistant Fiction Editor at Lunch Ticket and Editorial Assistant on the Fiction team at Split Lip Magazine. Her fiction and creative nonfiction have appeared or are forthcoming in Catapult, Berkeley Fiction Review, Little Fiction, New Flash Fiction Review, The Brown Orient, The MacGuffin, and Gravel, among others. Her stories have been selected as the Longform Fiction Pick of the Week and nominated for the 2018 Best of the Net Anthology. Find her online at annavangalajones.wordpress.com and on Twitter @anniejo_17.

Artwork by: Timothy Gerken

Timothy Gerken is an associate professor of Humanities at a small state school in Central New York. As a teacher, writer, and photographer Timothy’s work calls attention to the presiding metaphors we follow—often blindly—and to the structural conventions they encourage.

Links
Website: timgerkenphotography.com
Instagram: @timothy.gerken/