ANATOMY | Elizabeth Atkin’s short story explores the map of a body.
by Elizabeth Atkin
Ellen Lowens has a giant pimple on the right side of her nose. It is a murky pink, notably darker than her milky skin. Once, when she was 19, a half-drunk boy shuffled towards her at a house party, and said, ‘Can I ask you a question? Where did that beauty mark come from?’
They slept together several times, not long after, and the one time he cried afterwards she felt really bad for laughing. She didn’t mean to laugh. It wasn’t funny. It was awkward.
Rarely, she thinks about him, and thinks about the laughing. She has considered apologising. She feels especially bad because, before him, she had never thought of the mark as beautiful. It was always just there.
Ellen Lowens has a missing tooth. She was 15, stood outside an ATM in the parking lot of a retail outlet, chewing a wad of apple Hubba Bubba, and talking to her dad. Somewhere in-between the talking, and the money-taking, and the chomping, she suddenly heard a crack. And out came a recent, chrome filling.
It wouldn’t have been a thing if the root hadn’t been exposed. It became infected. So, she writhed around in agony for days, and days, and days, swilling cold water, until eventually her mom was convinced a dentist visit was necessary.
Long story short, the local anaesthetic didn’t work, so she remembers the extraction – the torture – vividly. She screamed, and her mom wailed like someone had taken pliers and stuck them in her mouth, too. Even the dental nurse was crying, her mom said afterwards.
Luckily, it was the second molar from the back.
“? it’s part of the furniture, like the gentle slope, her wrinkled belly button.”
Ellen Lowens has puffy ankles. She first noticed them one July after landing in Paris, on vacation with her sister. Now, she can’t not notice it. Mercifully, it usually only appears after a long day of walking. It always looks the same: a swathe of cellulite and dimples crawling down her legs.
She says it’s because she’s a bad eater, a shameless smoker, and as we speak, her arteries are constricting like boa snakes do around human necks. Actually, it’s down to a family history of poor circulation in the extremities. It gets much better when she drinks more water, and keeps her feet elevated while sitting down. Occasionally, she pulls firm compression socks up to her knees.
Ellen Lowens has wild blue eyes, inherited from her grandma on her mom’s side. She also has ‘child-bearing hips’, according to her grandma on her dad’s. One time, a girl told her she had eyes like a Husky. The hips came in handy, later.
Ellen Lowens has an ink-black mole on her left hand, in between her fourth and fifth finger, a way below her knuckles. She remembers it’s there, mostly in the office, whenever anyone says they know something like the back of their hand.
Ellen Lowens has a scar on her stomach. It’s seven centimetres long. Once a gash, now a phantom – just slightly raised, bumpy, faded red. She often traces it with her index finger. Sometimes, she thinks about how she got it. She rarely ever talks about it.
For a long time, it was a foreign body, a stranger. A stranger who wants to be seen, make themselves known, until they are a stranger no longer, until they are everywhere, all of the time. When she took off her clothes, the stranger was all could she could see.
That was probably the point. Now, it’s part of the furniture, like the gentle slope, her wrinkled belly button.
Ellen Lowens also has a triangle of chocolate-brown freckles on her nape. They’d been there since birth, and were always covered by her hair.
She didn’t know they existed until her husband connected the dots. He connects the dots every night, before they go to bed.
She can’t quite see them properly in the mirror.
Elizabeth Atkin | @elizabethkatkin | elizabethatkin.com
Elizabeth Atkin is an editor and writer from Newcastle, currently living in London. She mostly writes about travel, and is the Digital Editor for Wanderlust Magazine.