My parents were astonished when I was born with a tail. My mother respected the narrative it held; she refused to let the doctors remove it. My father shrugged. He never bowed to day-to-day decisions.
When I was eight, I asked my mother, ‘Why don’t my friends have tails?’She said people are afraid of difference. ‘Don’t be too quick to conform to others’ ideals,’ she said. She chopped her fingers as if they were a pair of scissors.
Her words bemused me but her snip, cut, snip made me giggle.
When I was twelve, Martha Karn called me a freak and my mother a liar. I ran home and burst into her study. Papers spiralled upwards in a malformed helix.
‘Why didn’t you let them cut it off?’
She caught my tears. ‘It can’t be removed as easily as you might think. Besides, it wasn’t my choice to make.’
‘I want it gone,’ I said. ‘I want to be like everyone else.’
‘Wait until you’re older.’ She stroked my hair. The fabric of her blouse was full of the scent of highlighter pens, books and dust.
At sixteen, Marcus Ace pulled up beside me, revved his bike, tugged on my tail and winked. He didn’t care what anyone thought. My friends were jealous we were dating. Then I learned of his brag.
After that, I coiled it beneath dark, baggy jumpers; strangers assumed it was rolls of fat.
At eighteen, I had it removed. My mother wept as hard as when I showed her the engagement ring.
Later, I caught Marcus in bed with my best friend and realised he was no different from anybody else.
If I sit quietly and don’t concentrate too hard, I can sense it shifting from side to side as it puckers the scar etched into my skin.