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Artwork by Aldwin Li, staff artist

I’ll be a vigilante, a man-killer. The little girl said. I’ll slay the rapists, the abusers, and castrate them in their own homes.

Don’t say that. Her mother said. You sound bitter. Men don’t like bitter women.

That’s the point. The little girl responds, fires sparking in her irises. Her

mother does not know

where she learned to talk like this.

She used to be such a happy child, she recalls.

She cannot understand why

Her daughter’s tears are made of rubbing alcohol, and her

Palms have purplish scars, from where she dug her nails in.

Her mother, blinded by the ghost of her baby girl, cannot see

The venom her daughter learned to hide behind her teeth,

The paralyzing fear

that rape statistics and shameful stories

of gutted women, programmed within her.

Her mother cannot see the callous, hungry looks boys give her daughter,

The looks that turn her to marble:

sharp and unquestionably beautiful,

But tragically fragile.

So her mother sits

and wonders what carnivorous demon

Took her little girl

And hardened her cotton-candy dreams into tough peach pits,

Told her to spit at the roses her admirers gave,

And left the taste

of stale booze and Old Spice on her tongue.

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