Watermelon Shorts

by Kathryn Phillips

Illustrated by Brooke Ripley

There is a girl with a pair of watermelon board shorts,
Ready for summer with a smile, as wide as its sweet and sour rind,
Reminding her of a cold Independence Day barbecue, bite marks tracing its corners from start to finish,
Licking every drop of juicy, joyful blood that comes from it. 
The thick, fruity band cinches in at her waste and
The water and tear resistant 
Fabric ends above her knee,
Kindly gracing her thigh. 
Their seams straighten to 
Effortlessly painted strokes hiding
The haunted insecurities that she is supposedly rewarded.

These shorts are like magic.
Their loose and long fit feel like 
A picture-perfect comfort.
They make her feel like 
An attractive superhero on the face of a Marvel Magazine who 
All the boys wish they were and 
All the girls wish they were with.

The comfort travels to the waistband.
It hugs her like her mother did,
Hands wrapped around 
Her chest, her hair, her stomach 
Making her emptiness melt away;
Making her feel full. 

She stands in front of the villain
Outlining every mistake: beautiful and elegant.
She can’t figure out if the mistake is the reflection or her. 
Sticky fingers inhabiting her too thin pull down her breath. 
Her sharp hips and lying, distant figure betrays her. 

As she grabs the watermelon shorts
And scrapes them up her thighs,
Her trapped excitement bleeds through her teeth and her chest.
The shorts swallow every part of her that wasn’t supposed to be there.
Her hips, her butt, her thighs 
Till it was just her. But not her. A different her.
A her not defined by a “she” or “he.”

Her father laughs with
A smile that is actually happy.
She can wear them 
As long as she wears a feminine top with them.
There needs to be balance.
He doesn't want anyone to stare. 
Maybe it would be a mistake on his part. 
Father tells her she is holding her breath
But when she puts the shorts on, 

She exhales.

It made sense.
It makes sense. 
These shorts aren’t just shorts.
They are a ticket to freedom.
Proof that what she is feeling is real.
It is a start of a story 
They are beginning to understand.