I’ve been thinking about my stomach. The flat plane of my skin moving toward my belly button, the small rise below it, that piece of flesh that never seems to flatten, like tectonic plates colliding over eons of time. I’ve been thinking about seams cutting into my skin and red lines that appear when I take off my pants, so I can see pants on me even when I’m not wearing them. I put them back into my closet in case I try them on in a few months and they aren’t tight anymore.
I left a relationship because it was too tight. But once I was out, I wanted back in. It had been uncomfortable, but I made it work.
After washing my jeans, I have to work to put them on. I slide the jeans to the middle of my thighs. I wriggle, tugging the fabric at my calves, my knees, my thighs, easing it over the hump of my butt. I kick each leg out, trying to pull the fabric to where it is supposed to sit on my waist. Then I squat down to stretch the fabric to a level I deem comfortable. It’s been happening more often, and I find myself looking in the mirror. Is my body growing. Are my pants shrinking.
“Why would we leave something good just to see what else is out there?” we’d ask each other. We had said what we had was worth the trouble, that the good was good enough. We liked knowing what we had more than we wanted something better for ourselves. It was love, but it was also fear, visible only to me after I had left the too-tight place I had shoved myself into. Visible like contour lines on a map. Visible like red lines in skin.
I tell myself I will be more satisfied accepting that piece of flesh below my belly button, but also satisfied making it go away. These are my favorite jeans. My mother told me two years into the relationship, “You know, you might not find anyone better.” She didn’t mean I was unworthy of something better, but that he was a good guy and we worked. But I outgrew him.
Dressing rooms are a dreaded place. The lighting casts shadows on my skin, throwing into relief land previously undiscovered. The mirrors cannot be avoided. I’ve always feared trying clothes on. As a young girl, my mother would not always make me try a piece of clothing on, and I would tell her I liked it, but after she bought it, I would only wear it a few times. After that, she began making me try on every single item of clothing I wanted. I quit wanting new clothes. Mine were sufficient.
“I think you two are very compatible,” a woman who knew us both said. “I think there is potential for it to work out.” By this she meant stay together long-term and possibly get married. He and I had been together for a year and a few months then.
Tectonic plates move over time. Topography changes. Contour lines are redrawn.
My jeans did not fit, so I gave them away. I want them back despite that, because I know them, and they follow my curves like winding roads on mountains. I want them back because they are familiar and worn in with my scent, even after I wash them. I want them back even though they do not fit, because having them was easier than trying to find a new pair of pants that fits like those did when they fit me, when I was smaller, when we were happier, when I was not expanding beyond the space I had allotted for myself, when buying a pair of pants seemed easier, when I was not so scared to see that I was filling myself, when the jeans slid on with ease and I wore them comfortably and felt like myself in them. I want them back.
The lights in the dressing room are harsh, and I am alone in there, staring back at myself at all angles, me and me and me and me and wondering if anything will fit me now.
Molly McConnell is a writing coach in Thessaloniki, Greece. Her work can be found in Bad Pony Mag, Wraparound South, Roads and Kingdoms, and elsewhere. She thought writing in English was challenging until she began learning Greek.