Creative Nonfiction: This Body Does Not Belong to You by Matthew Mastricova

He sits across the aisle from you on the train, not directly across or you would have noticed him, you would have noticed him the way he had noticed you because it was late, the train wasn’t even running express anymore and the train was near empty, but you were so deep into your book and you even had headphones on, honestly he could have been sitting right next to you and you wouldn’t have noticed him. He sits across from you and then he is no longer sitting, and neither are you, you are leaving the train. You are walking up the stairs. You are leaving the station. He is leaving the station, behind you, after you, and where is he looking? Are his eyes fixed ahead, or on his phone, one of however many hookup apps open and pulsing, or on your ass? Are his eyes fixed on the way your feet don’t touch the ground, not heel-to-toe in the way they are supposed to even though it has lessened over the years, at one point so notable, so severe that your childhood doctor recommended both your legs be put in casts from the knee down to train your body not to walk the way you do and even that did nothing to regulate your body, did he even notice that or was he too focused on your ass as you climbed out of the station, thinking only about grabbing some dollar-menu Wendy’s on the way home? He devours the distance between you and says he thinks he knows you, you look familiar, do you go to Rockbar? And you haven’t in years, but this doesn’t dissuade him, he keeps talking and you keep responding because even in the apartment you share with your partner you so often feel lonely and he is so friendly and light and you recognize the moment you have gone against his expectations. You turn off the arterial street towards your apartment. He begins to cross the other way and then stops, mid-stride. He doubles back to follow you. He says listen. He says I don’t actually live here but I saw you on the train and I recognized you from the apps and just had to talk to you. You are still walking and you tell him you can’t invite him up and he is still following you. He asks if you recognize him. You don’t. You’ve never seen him before and there are so many men who demand your pictures. He watches you pull up an app you’re both on and there he is. He is outside your apartment building. You have a months-old message from him. He had negged you for not responding to a greeting and he says, now, it was just a joke. He was trying to be funny. You don’t laugh. You want to go inside. You want to strip down and lay in bed next to your partner and hold them close to you. You exchange numbers even though you plan on never fucking him and he leaves and you never talk to him again although he occasionally texts you and tries to guilt you into responding. He knows where you live and he never appears even though he can. For as long as you live there, you tiptoe past the possibility of him waiting at your door, demanding another chance to lay claim to you. You’re not afraid of him, not exactly. You dread how he would see you, keys in hand and body already bent towards home, and recognize only the future he has imagined for your body. As if your whole life has led you here only to serve someone else’s function. As if this body does not belong to you.

Matthew Mastricova is the fiction editor for Third Point Press. Their work has appeared in Catapult, Joyland, Foglifter, Redivider, The Threepenny Review, and elsewhere.

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