Landfall

I am thirteen, standing in front of the full-length mirror in the bathroom, naked. Florida summer heat presses hard against the house, seeping in through thin walls. It’s hurricane season. The window unit chugs and sputters in an attempt to trim thick waves of heat into wisps of cool relief. It’s failing. The air is stagnant. My hands and armpits are clammed with sweat. My body is ashen and blurred against the sickly pink walls reflecting in the mirror. The shower drips uninterrupted.

Baby fat clings to large curves that should be sharply defined by now. Other areas are overdeveloped, underdeveloped, misshaped, and awkward. I wonder how this would be divided on a butcher’s chart. Dense shoulders, a rigid square chest with two banana-boobs splayed in opposite directions, a deep belly button, all rest on two giant loaves of raw dough. Parts that were once taught move and jiggle. Things are not so uniform any more. I dry off, put on my clothes, and make my way to the backyard where my mother is waiting with splintered wood and rusty screws. A storm is coming.

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Erica Langston grew up in Homestead, Florida, a sinking town cradled between the Everglades and a nuclear power plant. Her childhood was loud, and greatly defined by siblings, storms, swamps and shallow graves. She is a graduate of the University of Florida, a 2011-2013 Fulbright Scholar, and an MSc candidate in Environmental Studies at the University of Montana.

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