Alina Mithani

Sweet smells of strawberry perfume and coconut lotion filled my lungs as I walked into the girls locker room in 7th grade. 37-15-11 I recited calmly to myself as the familiar sight of my navy blue locker came into view. Subconsciously expecting the same everyday uniform, I quickly cracked the lock and pulled open my locker. Cotton, shirt. Check. Silicon, shorts. Check. One last thing. I reached further for the long black cotton-polyester leggings with a small hole behind the knee. My hands slapped all around inside the four corners of the cold, blue metal but the only thing that I could grab was a lost coin and handfuls of dust. The knuckles in my hand bent in pain as they hit the back of my locker. I tried again . . . nothing. Where were they? Frantically, I turned around and pulled my backpack onto the wooden ledge to my side and ripped open every zipper that came into sight, searching for an extra pair of sweatpants, leggings, flares, anything. Nothing again. 


This can’t be happening. Around me, the conversation had died down, all I could hear were my own thoughts as they overflowed my mind. All of a sudden, there was a glimpse of light, blurring my vision in the corner of my eye. I blinked and a tear came rushing down my cheek. Without thinking, I desperately opened empty lockers hoping one would have pants of some sort for some odd reason. My head began to heat up in frustration as did my palms and the back of my neck. I blinked again to erase the bubbles forming in the corner of my eyes and water began effortlessly falling from my eyes onto my cheeks, shirt, floor. No time, if I’m late everyone will see. I pulled off my jeans and revealed the many dark hairs covering my brown skin. My family’s coservative values always taught me that modesty is a virtue and revealing parts of my body as a woman is incredibly shameful and I would lose all respect for myself if I did so. But today I wouldn’t have a choice. Making matters worse, I would be walking into a sea of flawless, perfectly tanned, beautiful hairless legs that would soon make me an imposter. Pulling down my shorts until they were barely hanging on to my hips in order to cover as much leg as possible, I noticed only the sound of my rugged breathing and water dripping from a faucet that was left half on. I threw my shirt on, softly closed my locker and slowly walked towards the door. Slowly passing the showers, I contemplated hiding in one of them until class was over. Reaching the door, I pulled my ear millimeters away from the orangey wood and my thoughts were interrupted;


“Alright grab your sticks and find your groups!” Ms. Landthrop instructed. 


My hands began to relax as I tricked myself into believing my bare legs were fully covered. My lips still trembled though, as I waited for the large crowd of kids to start moving and talking. I quickly opened the door and mixed in with the cluster of students walking around. I dared not to look anyone in the eye, afraid I would see their gaze lower towards my legs. I walked quickly and stood in a corner away from my friends, afraid that if they saw, they would never talk to me again, like before.


We were playing floor hockey, and I volunteered to stay on the sidelines since we had an extra player. I saw my coach talking but I couldn’t hear a word, just the sound of white noise and an overwhelming sense of humiliation. Sitting with my back leaning on the wall, and my gaze stuck on a piece of gum on the ground, I dug my nails into my legs back and forth, scratching as hard as I could believing it would get rid of each hair follicle. It wouldn’t budge. Then I hugged my legs into my chest and stomach, covering as much as I could with my long arms. My legs were shivering but my forehead was burning of heat. Looking down at my dark knees, I curled myself up to make my small body smaller than it ever should have been and shook slightly, futilely trying to become invisible as I felt a piercing hole in my heart. I was alone.


After school, I rushed to the bathroom to find my dad’s packet of razors in the first drawer. I knew what I was doing could get me in trouble. I knew I had to keep it a secret. Locking the door, I pulled off my jeans, staring at the hundreds of dark hairs I hated with every fiber of my being. I pushed the razor violently against my skin and pulled in a sideways motion. Nothing was coming off. I tried the other way, downwards – no change. Then I went upwards and felt tiny sharp knives cutting into me as I quietly winced in pain. They were disappearing. It was the only thing I ever wanted. 10 minutes passed and I could not see any more small black lines. I took a deep breath and stood on the toilet, looking through the small mirror to see my new, pretty legs. But I could barely see the brown of my skin . . . they were dark red, covered in blood and dripping onto the hardwood floor. Why can’t my legs be pretty? I wet a paper towel and gently wiped it across my left shin, the cold water poured into my cuts as I whimpered through each stroke. Tears flowed onto my chin and jaw as I imagined my mom’s soft hands patting a fluffed towel on my skin, erasing my pain. But I could also hear her, echoing the words her mother had shared with her back in Pakistan. “If you respect yourself, you will cover up.” So I zoned back in and focused on the bloody towel. About an hour after my legs were dry, I could feel small spiders crawling up and down my legs, but when I pulled up the bottom of my pajamas, there would be nothing present but dark red stains and the faint smell of blood. I still smell it sometimes.