birthday wishes

Muhammad Abrar

Contains themes of body shaming and dysmorphia.
Reader discretion is advised.

my sister sits across the table
with a rosy smile across her face
it is my birthday in five months
she sips on the glass of water
to drain down the sourness
of the question she is about to ask
‘so, what do you want on your birthday,
big guy?’
the air from the kitchen window
flowing behind
pulls my hair down the foregone

i remember when i was little
i would get into the shower
with the lights off
for how i did not want to look at my body
and every day after i came back home
i’d lock the door to see
how many ribs i can count
without having to press my fingers too hard
i wanted my skin to sink
for how much i thought this body
was way too big to give home
to all the adjectives the boys in my grade
had learned in literature class
to only save the specific ones for me

Birthday Wishes - Illustration for Abrar

‘fat’ is ironically a small word
i remember how i looked at food
with animosity
before i even took a bite
i planned how long would it take for me
to reach my fingers down my throat
to hurl it all out
birthdays reminded me of cake
and i remember how much i loved cake
and i remember how much hated cake
they say if you pick up the smaller fork
you will be eating less
but they never tell you how to pick out
the shortest knives
‘fat’ the shortest knife
‘fat’ is ironically the shortest knife

i remember choking on water
for how they said ‘water diet’
would for sure shrink me
i remember crying on my birthdays
crying for how i would never fit in
‘fit’ ironically is a word that means
both ‘not fat’ and ‘right’

my sister sits across the table
waiting for me to answer
when she asks me what i want on my birthday
i remember the birthdays back ten years ago
on my birthday when was eleven
i wanted to shrink
i wanted to sink