Born to be Dragons Instead of Princesses:
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  • It is said, “He who holds the hook is aware in what water many fish are swimming.” I was full once. Before the night he gutted me. The night I heard my own ‘no’ echo into his cavernous moaning mouth. And even then, I was only a fish, and what else was I good for but an easy catch.

    I should have known better than to swim alone along such a dark and foreign shoreline, where grown men with rolled up sleeves reach beneath the surface groping the river for something alive. Something to turn into meat. He did not look like a fisherman. His clothing was not soaked up in the blood of a prey, nor did he smell of the sea. I mistook him for lighthouse, something innocuous.

    He must have slipped the hook down my throat as he brushed my hair behind my ear, bought my second gin and tonic. It is customary to keep fish wet until you scale them.

    I was so taken by the act of being chosen I didn’t notice the pierce. Blood dripped behind my tongue and this is my story. I let a man spread open my abdomen, reach inside, bypass my refusal, remove parts of me and scoop them into his bucket.

    The thing about being raped I need you to understand is it doesn’t always happen on concrete. Sometimes, the gutting happens inside of a bedroom. Sometimes, it is accompanied by kind words and wet lips. Sometimes, it is easier to believe you deserve it. To believe you owe it to him. To wake up the next morning to serve him the pulp of you he scraped from your bones on a breakfast table, the glass of orange juice, and let him walk you home holding your hand. And when you arrive at your front door, remove the hook from your throat and with a sore and grateful tongue, thank him for choosing to catch and release.

    Even now in the retelling, what I would give to tell you I was a python coiling around the flesh of his neck ringing the life out of him slowly. What I would give to tell you I was an alligator, hyena, grisly bear, anything but a fish. Anything that doesn’t go down without a fight. What I’d give to tell you I spit on him, pushed him off of me, carved into his abdomen with my own teeth.

    But I am only a fish and what else is a fish good for but to be consumed even on the holiest of lent without ever breaking his fast. And now, the first man since the gutting to bring me into his bed peels back my scales to find me empty. My liver, kidneys, tongue, heart removed, my body stitched from gill to pelvic fin. My eyes cloudy and sunken. Underneath his sheets, he thrusts into me. Ask me what’s wrong, if it’s his fault. Ask me, why I’m lying there lifeless like a dead fish.

    —    Beck Cooper
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