The S Word

By: Olivia Humphrey

A word so keen and so sharp,
Thrown at me but never to me
To be muttered under the breaths of the boys who I’ve denied
And whispered from the girls with whom I have never exchanged a word.
It drips from the lips of people who do not know me,
Pouring from their tongues like blood and bleach
And staining the image I had made for myself.
All based on nothing but rumors and manipulated mistakes,
The word ‘slut’ wraps around my brain like poison ivy
Leaving me itchy for a better reputation
Or a way to turn back time
And find a person who would believe that I was not that filthy word.
Voices called me nasty, disgusting, and untouchable,
Yet the same sweaty bodies attached to those voices
Also labeled me as a goal and
An achievement they couldn’t wait to unlock,
But when they couldn’t find the key they needed,
They threatened to destroy my brassy exterior until I molded to their ridged desires.
From the boy who touched me in the halls and grabbed my thighs in class,
Digging his dirty fingernails into skin where he did not belong
To the boy who told me I’d be an easy target because I’m small enough to throw around
Onto a bed where I did not want to be
Or even the fully grown bearded man who drove a motorcycle and smelled of smoke
Who told me I’d love college because I had the “brains and the boobs” to make something of myself.
I believed that maybe I was letting it happen by staying silent,
Until I finally spoke about the words and the boys and the nails and the smoke
And I was labeled with a different S Word:
This one came at me fast and felt fleeting from the boys who knew their guilt
But kept their innocence
As no one was punished or asked to say anything but
A half-assed message I received through a screen on Snapchat,
The apology was forced but not felt by his thumbs or my eyes
Because I was still too busy feeling his grimy fingers extend into my flesh like Play-Doh.
He molded me into someone terrified that they might be right —
The echoes in my mind told me maybe I was exactly what they said I was:
Disgusting, untouchable, unlovable to those who weren’t after anything but my body.
Until I finally found someone who changed my mind about who I was —
His voice sounded the way silk across granite feels and
Scarlet roses bloomed from his mouth as he spoke, and
Sweet golden honey spilled from his lips and into my ears
And brought the buzz of the bees back into my lungs when I laughed, and
His words looked like bold cursive letters and sounded like an empty theatre ringing with opera.
He called me something new and enticing:
My own goddamn name.