Paper Girl

This selection is part of NonBinary Review Issue #7: The Woman in White. Get NonBinary Review #7 from the Zoetic Press website. 

I want a little girl.

One with black slippers and a mint dress that’s ruffled in the most inconvenient places. I will work that much harder to hold her. I want her to be oblivious to the bag I’m asking her to carry. Oblivious to the cardigan falling off of her shoulders and to how dreamlike her movements are. I want her stepping purposefully on coffee shop floor tiles; ones that aren’t so black and white and also ones I help her experience. I want her innocence to be something felt so long it sets in the room overnight. Her innocence will be stacks and stacks larger than she is and that’s okay. She’ll carry it like a bow in her hair and she’ll eventually grow out of it. In bad ways, in worse ways. In tragic ways, in possible ways. That’s all even more okay.

It was promised to me, some time ago, that I’d meet this little girl. I was promised an argument over her name. I was even promised to win.

I was promised she’d have my auburn tangles only if she could have his jade eyes. I said I wouldn’t mind. In truth, I wouldn’t want it any other way. Not even blue. Not even brown.

In return, I promised she’d have sarcasm, as well as an obvious demeanor for unappealing things—a trait which heightens with unappealing people. It wouldn’t callous her, though.

This world will not callous her.


People will have no choice but to look twice at her. Paired with my honesty, she can’t lose.


Unlike he and unlike I, she would not be a catastrophe. Not one of ash. She wouldn’t let herself be.
And when she doubts that fact, (for she will, she’s her mother’s daughter), I’ll show her how natural of a disaster she is.
She’ll be a disaster of sand and straw wrappers and chalk after warm rain. I promise you, sullen girl, you’ll be a basket woven with as many loose ends as you choose.

And for when you wonder why I am the way I am.
When you wonder why your mother tastes the past like all the water in the world has dried and she’s dependent.
When you wonder about who you are because you’re afraid of who I am.

Remember this;

Air cannot breathe without oxygen, and oxygen will only function if nitrogen and argon are already together.
No one was there to tell me what I should have done, supposing nitrogen and argon would rather condense than be together. Supposing I couldn’t breathe and none of the equation was up to me. Supposing I had no choice but to suffocate.

People are selfish, paper girl. If you hold your breath for even one second believing someone else should have it instead, you may never breathe again.
Hear me on this, if nothing else.

I shook and shook and shook. I tried.
I tried to make you so much more than this page.
If all it took were my own lungs, you’d be here with me.
I would be your nitrogen and your argon and your oxygen. I would condense in every plane and dance year long endeavors for you.


It takes four sets of lungs to create two more. Someone crushed their lungs in a rage and took a third of mine with them.

Two thirds isn’t enough. It isn’t natural. It isn’t you. It’s me.

NBR7ImelsmallT. Imel writes, paints, and acts her way through life at the moment. Coffee is needed here and there, but above all else, she is just a person. Trying things. She has been published in Dirty Chai Magazine and Hypertrophic Press Literary Magazine.