The Zero Mile Post marked the meeting of two railway lines and possibly the beginning of the city of Atlanta. Zero Mile is a series of sometimes fictionalized and sometimes real stories based on life in Atlanta, Georgia.
By Nicki Salcedo, contributor
I wonder why my body curves into this shape like the ocean curves into the shore.
I wonder why we don’t judge the waves for being calm and deep. I wonder why we don’t worry when the water creates a storm.
I wonder what makes me a woman. Is it the womb inside me? Is it my mind? I wonder.
I wonder about women.
I wonder why some men hate us. The energy we emit is powerful. We create such fear, such disdain, such obsession. My body creates chemical reactions that cannot be contained.
My sweat and breath are honeyed milk. I make no apologies for my sweetness.
I am strong. I do not compare myself to men. Men have been good companions to me. I neither revere nor disdain them. You might say I am as strong as or stronger than a man. But I compare myself to no one. I am the power of me. I am stronger than you think.
I wonder why some women hate themselves. Our sweet breath is both life and venom. I look for women who love me without asking me to change, without asking me to be just like they are. That is strength. That is power.
My tears are a gift. My kindness a privilege. My hands can both heal and strike. It makes you wonder about me.
I wonder about strapless swimsuits and high heel boots and pushup bras. I wonder about the armor we wear underneath our clothes. I want to know why our soft places must be held into an hourglass shape.
My irregular body, my warmth, my jiggly bits do not weaken my strength. There is power in my movement.
I wonder why people hate that movement. I am learning to love it again.
I wonder about the suit I wear. Sometimes with a skirt. You want to see my legs. Pants offend you. But not too much leg. I wonder about this balance I must maintain each day. Sexy prude. I’ve forgotten how to show some decency. But you are the indecent one. I am perfect. Woman. Wondering.
I wonder about the suit I wear. Sometimes pants. I’m not trying to be a man. Men don’t own the legs of my body or the slacks I wear. I like flexibility. My cool aloofness frightens you. I need this outer shell some days. The shield. I am tired of being battle-scarred. I wonder about this.
I am thoughtful. I am decisive. I do not compare myself to anyone. I tell you what I think. I write to be heard in the middle of the night in places too far to hear my voice.
My indifference unsettles you. You think my longing for solitude is unnatural. Can’t I also be Superman? I wonder why you call my directness being cold. I am a queen of many things including snow. Remember that ice also burns.
I watch a woman at my feet scrubbing my soles with a pumice. She is scrubbing my soul with a pumice. She is scrubbing my feet like I am a disciple, and she is my savior.
“You have nice feet,” she says. I have heard this over the years.
There are no calluses. No hard places. My feet are soft like a baby’s. The woman scrubs nonetheless.
“I wear good shoes,” I say. She stares at me in wonder, in confusion. I clarify, “I wear practical shoes.”
She understands. I have not pinched my toes or hobbled on high stilettos. I have a strange superpower. I wear plain shoes. I have pretty feet.
I wonder about the intimacy of hands on feet. She, with bent back and eyes downcast, is also a hero.
I look at the armor we put on our face. It is not the makeup, but the expressions of blank acceptance. I’d rather wear mascara and scowl. Other days I like smiling. I am both smiling and unsmiling. I make no apologies for the range of my expressions. I wonder if that’s what makes them most afraid. I can heal. I can strike.
I dream about Wonder Woman. She was my first hero. I still have the powers she taught me. I find the truth. It is rarely found in words. Still I find it.
Wonder about women.
I dream about Wonder Woman. Would she be so wonderful if she were ugly? If I stood next to her would you ever choose me? I don’t worry. I don’t compare myself to anyone. Not even her.
It makes me wonder about all women. We are so different from each other. We pull on our tall boots, because the only universal truth in our lives is how often we wade through shit. That is our sisterhood.
Wonder Woman can’t touch me. I know this. We seek the truth. We fly.
I wonder. I wonder if I am really the ocean. I’d never ask to be a man, but for a day it might be nice to be water.
Calm. Deep. Dreadful. The same things I am now.
Does the ocean wonder about me?
I am a wonder woman. I wonder. I was born without superhero strength, and they still expect me to fight. And they wonder if I’ll win.
Nicki Salcedo knows the loops and the back roads of Atlanta. She is a novelist, blogger and working mom. Zero Mile stories appear on the Atlanta Loop on Wednesdays.