Young Girl With Wolf
By Ruth Thompson
In the photograph you are playing with a wolf. You are holding up a towel and the wolf, a cub, a dying cub though you do not know that yet, is reaching up to grab the towel with his mouth. Did he bite people's hands too, the way a mouthy puppy does? You do not remember. He was not troublesome, hardly there at all in your memories, poor stolen orphan cub, sold to a boy who wanted a wolf. And you too saw nothing wrong in it then, so far were you from anything real, so lost in college and books and boyfriends and probably trouble at home.
You knew no more than the wolf about the world, though unlike the cub you pretended to—you with your eyes and face swollen from allergies you didn't know about yet, your narrow waist and full hips, round arm stretching up to hold the towel, the grit of jaw and eyes hidden under pneumatic blonde prettiness, mascara, big hair. Two years later it would be Twiggy, short dresses and skinny legs, but for now you are in the sexual thick of things, sitting in the sunshine, just come from bed or on the way to bed, playing with another baby who is soon to die, alone and far from home.
And you, too, not tomorrow, but soon enough, you too will die, and far from home. Cut off willingly from home. Down, down, down you will fall, and all your prettiness, your innocent seductiveness, your fresh full arms and lips, the emerging strength of jaw and mouth, all will be torn from you and wither away, and you will be a servant, a nothing, drone, unformed and worthless blob. Until, twenty years later, long after all is lost, you will begin to reconstitute yourself—from what? How? Unlike the wolf pup you will be reborn—browbeaten, aching, childless, gray. And you will begin from that.
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