about the author

Becky Bicks is a 2010 graduate of Yale’s Shen Curriculum for Musical Theatre. She is currently living and writing in Brooklyn, though she will always be a Manhattanite at heart. Her work has appeared on the page in Eunoia Review and The Wilderness House Literary Review and on the stage at Ars Nova in NYC.

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In Sheep’s Clothing

Becky Bicks

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Read by Mary Barbour.

True story: Human cysts grow hair and teeth.

Last week, Katie’s sister had to have a cyst removed after the doctors discovered it on her right ovary during a routine pelvic exam. After the surgery, the doctors examined the cyst and found that its five-inch diameter was filled with red hair and a complete set of adult molars. (She’s a brunette.)

You think you notice me first. (This is technically true because all I have noticed when you approach me is the way that everyone notices you, which has immediately convinced me that you are unremarkable.) You are a writer. You are charming. You invite me to a concert, and when halfway through you grab my hand, I am sure it is a mistake. You are older, and you are wanted, and I am nobody. I wait for you to let go—but you don’t—and then you hold it on our walk home, and the next day at the park, and the next week at your roommate’s show, and eventually in your bedroom, when you let go only to put yourself inside me. You are the first person to ever be inside of me. I am filled with you and with glee and with dread, when you finish and look me in the eyes and say—from now on, only me. I say—yes, only you—because you are the only person to ever be inside of me, and you are charming, and you are wanted, and I am lucky.

Weeks later you say—Let’s never give ourselves a label. Labels are old-fashioned. Irrelevant. We’ve evolved beyond people who rely on semantics. My friends ask me what is going on, and I say you are my friend (because you are, among other things). They raise their eyebrows skeptically and I remember that they cannot understand because I have evolved—outgrown them. They tell me they miss me. Eventually, I stop answering their calls, and you bring me to highbrow events with your friends, and they keep calling. Now I am older, I am wanted.

The doctors told Katie’s sister that humans are remarkable machines—that, since the only thing that should grow near an ovary is a baby, the body will give a cyst near an ovary hair and teeth to make it seem as close to a baby as possible. This tricks the immune system into accepting the cyst as an appropriate object to have inside the body and spares it from rejection.

First you say—I can strengthen our intellectual connection. Then you password protect your computer and cellphone and say we should incubate the products of our creative minds, shelter them even from each other, until they are ready to be exchanged. By revealing too much of our art too soon we decrease its potential effect. I put a password on my computer and my phone and try to write things to hide from you while I carve your name into my desk like a middleschooler and think about the things you are writing. I imagine the day you will share your work with me and feel lucky to have your brilliant mind to keep mine stimulated and alive.

One night, you say—Let’s elevate our physical connection, too. Don’t tell anyone you are mine. Flirt. Make me jealous. So we go out and you flirt with bartenders who are older than your mother and watch while I put your face on men with pompadours and pretend they are you while I compliment their pocket squares and taste in cognac. I spend my evenings in bars pulling leathery hands from my thighs, and my nights clutching your bedpost in ecstasy while you fuck me like a ragdoll from behind. You know what you are doing, and I am yours, and I am lucky.

A cyst with hair and teeth can’t stay in a body forever, because eventually it will rupture, or burst, or grow so big that it will crowd other organs and have to be removed. The doctors guessed that Katie’s sister’s cyst had been inside her for ten years, even though there’d never been a sign of it. They told her she was lucky that they found it when they did, because if a cyst that size ruptured it could cause a fatal infection in the body cavity. Katie’s sister said that she didn’t even realize that she felt bad with the cyst in until she realized how good she felt with it out.

You leave your sent file up on my computer when you borrow it to check your e-mail. I open the first, which reads—I crave the way you taste. When can I see you again?—It is not addressed to me. You come home and I want to say nothing and I want to say everything and I want to scream, but I say only two words—Only. Me.

You try to grab my hand as you stand to go, but I shove it in my pocket and tell you no while I wait for you to leave. I am certain that I am dying because there is a strange and uncomfortable feeling in my chest and I fear that my heart, which must live in yours, is going with you. And as the door slams behind you, I close my eyes and try to imagine what life will look like without you here, but when I open them, the only thing I notice is your absence, which is palpable and reminds me that it doesn’t matter anyway, because I am yours, and you are gone, and I am no one.

The doctors told Katie’s sister that we are remarkable machines... That her cyst was an imperfect product of evolution... That her body was able to fool its own immune system with a simple set of hair and teeth... That humans—we are our own undoing.

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