When she was twelve, Lucy lost the property deed to her body. It had been there before, thrown in a drawer among dried up felt tip pens and mismatched colouring pencils, but one day it was gone. Her teachers had warned her about hair and blood and hips and tweenie bras: a body that would manage to gain weight and lose weight at the same time. But because they had never mentioned the deed, she assumed it was a mistake.
She saw it first as a hunger: men four times her age casting an eye over her and seeing a seven stone steak. She folded her arms in front of her chest when her friends’ dads approached. Boys of her own age snickered as she walked past and dared each other to touch her. “Damn, she’s a snack…”
“Oh, you have to hand that over when you buy the first tweenie bra,” her dad explained. “Now you belong to everyone. That’s the system. Take it as a compliment.”
“Can I have it back if I return the bra?”
“No. You should wear more clothes – cover up and they’ll respect you more. Nobody wants sweets that have been unwrapped.”
Lucy wanted to say that she was not a sweet, but everyone around seemed to agree that her purpose in life was to make mouths water, and when she searched in vain for the deed, they laughed at her and told her to enjoy the attention while it lasted.
She could not. As her teens and twenties progressed, she studied the workings of bodies to find out how she could get hers back. She became a doctor. She did not find the deed in her consulting room, but she met other women searching for their own property deeds after meeting with other doctors. This one could not be sterilised without consulting the husband she’d not yet met. Another could not have pills to swap her body’s testosterone for oestrogen without the agreement of several professionals and her ex wife. A third sobbed with relief when Lucy did not chide he with the usual message: do not have delicious things. Be a delicious thing, or be nothing at all. Your shareholders require it.
As her thirties progressed, the owners of her body began to express alarm. Is this one faulty? She has produced no other humans. Not long, Lucy. Not much time left before the wall. Would you like me to introduce you to some nice men? You’ve let us all down, with your career-focused ways, understanding all bodies but the one you’re allowed to inhabit. The wall is coming, Lucy.
Another year passed.
THE WALL, LUCY
YOU’RE HEADED STRAIGHT TOWARDS IT.
She was. A mass of women’s magazines formed a great edifice before her, each telling her to turn back, buy a product, dye her hair, go on a diet, do these five simple exercises every day for a week, but do anything to get away from the wall.
Lucy hit the wall, and smashed through it, and kept running with the wind in her hair. She already knew the contents of the envelope that fluttered down to her outstretched hand. Exhilaration filled the body she owned again.
She climbed the stairs up to her front door, and beamed at her new neighbour: a man of the same age.
He gave her a solemn look. “I’m so sorry. You must be devastated,” he said.