Fiction, nonfiction, and poetry from our favorite emerging writers
We are so excited for today's piece! Writer Desiree McCullough explores the discomforts of having a body in a beautifully intimate and percussive way. Please read, share, and consider submitting your own work!
In other news, our 2022 Fiction chapbook is going to press at the end of the month! Don't forget to preorder your copy.
The Derailleur Press Team
In between my breasts,
a dip, a small reserve.
My doctor diagnosed this
sunken gap in my breastbone as:
“mild pectus excavatum.”
This congenital deformity never bothered me until girls in high school
The polyester-spandex string
stretched over this impasse
between my developing chest.
A formation in utero
ignoring the capacity space for vital organs like a heart and lungs.
An overgrowth of connective tissue,
the sternum calculating this oddity as:
“bore inward and make room.”
When I am grossly selfish and inconsiderate of outcomes, I think of my pressing sternum.
Like a souvenir key chain from a trashy vacation, my concavity offers fond memories of where I fall short in the laws of human compassion and sacrifice.
Like letting that guy think he actually had a chance. He drove four hours to see me, and I ditched him. He had the same name as the love of my life, the only guy I wanted and cried over.
So the poor guy basically never really had a chance.
When that other guy admitted his emotional pangs for yours truly and sent it in a request to listen to LCD Soundsystem’s “Oh Baby.”
I could only say “Oh no.”
He bled deep, a gash only sealed by:
Fig. a: my requited love
Fig. b: another lover chosen under rash circumstances
Fig. c: the slow-absorbing salve of time.
For me, he grazed an impassioned swatch of skin.
I easily healed by removing the infection.
And then another email because he just didn’t get it.
I’m very good at sabotaging. I’m my personal nurse from hell.
Ripping out IVs of sound advice.
Dispensing incorrect dosages of emotional attachment.
Self-diagnosing while second guessing the Doctor.
Drawing out too much blood.
Tearing scabs because closure means maturity
and the slow, shitty process of healing.
And there are times my body is safe and sound. My chest is stable, cradling my pumping heart and ballooning lungs.
This is when fullness, the expanding of these organs, pushes against my casing because it has blessed me to view, better yet, experience the breath-taking, blood-throbbing warm flesh of the human experience.
My child’s heartbeat pressed against me in embrace, reassuring me, lulling me.
A ravenous symphony of laughter with a coworker in the copy room.
Fully giving myself in presence and mind to that one magical person in my life, bodies vulnerable and unfolding.
All of this, forcing my eyes open for a glimpse of the purpose of existence.
My heart on full display, fileted.
My breathing toggling or even momentarily stopping in the gift of exhaustion.
My vagus nerve clamped in joyous syncope.
A gracious interruption to my world.
The beauty of my limitations, my smallness, knowing I have an expiration date.
A dip in my chest cavity that quietly pleads for the gentle grazing of organs.
Desiree McCullough is a special education paraeducator, seminary dropout, and easily entranced by maps. She lives with her family in the Walla Walla Valley of southeastern Washington state.