In first grade, our class spent an afternoon cutting paper doll chains. Really, it tested how well we could follow rules—ensure the doll heads stayed round, the doll bodies stayed triangular—that we could shape people how we wanted. We had two tries.
For four years in elementary school, I had a crush on the same boy. He did not like me back. It was a game because I couldn’t distinguish between annoyance and love. I thought annoyance meant love. The boy and I were in the same first grade class, cutting the same chains. Except, I couldn’t do it right. I took another piece of paper. And another. I wasn’t following the rules because I persisted.
The boy I liked had messed up his chain too. His job, while we colored our dolls into people, was to sweep the classroom for loose paper scraps. When he swept the row by my desk, he looked at me. Couldn’t he tell we were both flawed in the same way and know what that meant? If he looked at me now, I don’t think he’d remember me.
Even today, I can’t cut it right. Someone loses his head. The hands never hold together the way I want. Everyone is too far apart. I keep trying to cut paper dolls out of the boys I love, and they keep cutting me back.
Meghan Dairaghi (she/her) is 24-year-old writer from St. Louis, MO. She's currently pursuing her MFA in fiction at University of Missouri-St. Louis. You can find some of her other publications in Belle Ombre, Alien Magazine, and forthcoming in Flypaper Lit.