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Rebecca N.Frankel-Tell Me You Were Sad In High School Without Telling Me You Were Sad In High School

There is a dragon in my belly. Its head stretches up my trachea and the spines scrape down inside my stomach until I’m raw. His tail ends in a space somewhere under my coccyx and his wings notch into my shoulder blades just right. The wing-flaps ensconce my lungs in love and mummification. I feed him smoke for breakfast. He gobbles the carcinogens right up.

I like to work in the dark; strain my eyes out in the blue-light of a laptop

screen. I have a playlist called “On the Cutting Edge,” and yes, it's meant to

be a kind of pun. I am a liar of the worst kind. I lie about things that don’t

matter. I will not tell you my favorite color, my real middle name. What I had

for breakfast is for my knowledge alone. I cannot lie about the important

things, though. God knows, I wish I could.

I don’t think that I will ever die. My dragon, he won’t allow it. It hasn’t been for lack of trying-- for lack of pills or opportunity. I’ve gotten close a couple times, y’know. I’ve uncapped the bottle, I’ve unhinged my jaw. But my dragon, that asshole, his mouth opens with mine. Twin throats. The pills go to the graveyard of him, they come out dissolved.

I used to write a lot of poetry. All my diaries are tied together with twine

and locked in a fireproof box. I have a callus like a shedding pearl on my

right middle finger. I used to write like I was dying; I don’t write like that


I think my dragon is red, but that is only conjecture. I like to believe he holds my heart in his two scaly palms. I don’t trust myself to keep something so fragile in just my chest alone. Part of the reason why I always get the urge to jump of buildings is because I imagine, when I’m in the air, his wings will rip through my shoulder skin and crack the blades. And only then, we’ll finally be able to fly.

My favorite movie isn’t really Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. They

just expect it. I like Radiohead a little more than is probably healthy. I only

write in pen because I’ve stolen all my own pencil sharpeners. I have a cut-

out picture of Florence Welch with a bottle of Gucci perfume pasted next to

my desk. She’s flanked by postcards of Sylvia Plath, Amy Winehouse, and

two identical portraits of Virginia Woolf.

I don’t open my mouth when I get angry, when I get hurt. My dragon and I are too well entwined, his tail circling my spine. He senses my fear, my hate, my great and terrifying need. If I drop my jaw, the flames will come, and where will we be then, my dragon and I? Spitting frightful fire at someone who probably doesn’t deserve such an incandescent rage reaction. We’ve spent so many years learning sophrosyne, self-control.

I like to see how long I can go without feeding myself. It keeps me sharp, it

keeps me keen. It doesn’t keep me whole, but nothing ever has. Ever does. I

think the most exciting sensation in the world is when alcohol hits an empty

stomach. I like to play roulette, but I won’t tell you what kind.

I cut my bangs with the same pair of scissors that once cut other places. My dragon told me that we’re not allowed to do that anymore, we’re too old for that shit. But I still sometimes drop the curling iron on purpose. I let it roll down my neck; leave a wake of blister hickeys.

When I was eighteen, the cops caught me and my then boyfriend behind

the furniture outlet next to the movie theatre. I stood shoeless next to a

shattered bottle. The nightair kissed the vile between-my-legs. He touched his

gun, his partner laughed. My underwear, crumpled on the floor of a Honda

Civic. I hate cops for most reasons, but this especially.

There is a couch in my parents house that I hate to sit on. The color orange hurts my eyes. I keep all my mirrors turned flush towards the wall. I hate to be held from behind. Don’t pull my hair, don’t bite. If I ever catch some accidental glimpse of myself in the midst of the act, I shake like a building besieged. My dragon takes my stifled screams and stores them in between each rib. He keeps them as his hoard; me from myself.

Edited by Jamie Chen.


REBECCA N. FRANKEL (but most people call her Becca) is a twenty-two year old poet, speculative fiction writer, and long-suffering novelist. Originally from Royersford, Pennsylvania, at the time of writing this, she is an incoming Masters candidate in Greek and Roman Studies at Brandeis University, Massachusetts. She is an alumna of Sarah Lawrence College where she concentrated in Creative Writing and Classics, and of the New York State Summer Writers Institute at Skidmore. She was the 2021 recipient of the Andrea K. Willison Prize for poetry. Their work has appeared in Love & Squalor and The Sarah Lawrence Review. In 2017, she published a limited-run short story collection with Endless Press. She has served as a featured staff writer for the Towne Book Center blog and writes other miscellany about classical studies and fan culture on her own blog, The Closet Classicist. In her spare time, she can be found playing the piano or the bass (badly) and trying to work through her nightmarish “to be read” pile. You can find her on Twitter as @beccafrankel.

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