By Holley Hyler 

The morning of my birthday, I opened the card my mother sent me. It was meant to be innocuous, but it opened the floodgates with only two sentences: “When I turned twenty-seven, your sister was three months old. Your life and mine are not at all alike, are they?”

The back of my armchair felt like his chest, so I pressed my face against it and wept.

The blood between my thighs agreed with my mother’s statement, a birthday gift that my body had held on to for over two months. It heard him when he told me that he did not love me, a thought that made me tearful in the doctor’s office days earlier. I shook my head when the nurse asked if anyone had hurt me, assuming she meant intentionally. I shook my head again when she asked if I could be pregnant, the “You Are Safe Here” sign on the wall mocking me.

People have a way of writing it off as insanity or low self-worth when you love so much. They classify it as “low libido” or “fear of intimacy” when there is only one person on the Earth that you dream of allowing inside you. Those who believe in that fear cannot see the paradox in it, thinking it normal to stand naked before partner after partner in a fruitless quest, the skin flushed before the soul is even warm.

The doctor walked in and pretended not to see as I wiped my eyes. I pretended to read the documents posted around the sign. He told me that my blood test results were normal, and then he left.

The evening of my birthday, the rusty Ferris wheel at the state fair loomed, encouraged by the night to show its true colors. The attendant at its gate pointed to a “No Single Riders” sign when I approached. He watched as I bent to walk underneath the chains and out of the line, people’s gazes pressing the weight of shame on my back.

I wandered, taking in the sights and sounds, the feeling of mockery returning whenever I saw the Ferris wheel blinking in the distance.

“Join a sideshow,” it seemed to say. “You could be the World’s Loneliest Girl.”

“You are as fake as the sign in my doctor’s office,” I thought. “After this is over, they will tear you down and put you in a truck. You have no home, no anchor.”

It glowed fuchsia, then blue. “You wound me.”

During my drive home, I wondered how many tears had sunk into the depths of my chair.

The day after my birthday, my tears mingled with my morning coffee until all I tasted was salt. I craved an anchor, other than the one inside me. People were sometimes fake, could not be anchors, could not be static like furniture. I leaned my head against the chair.

“You are safe here,” I whispered.

About the Author:


Holley Hyler is from southern Virginia and currently lives in Rochester, New York. She graduated in 2013 from University of Mary Washington with a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing. Her first publication, a personal essay entitled “Meditation Session,” was in Buck Off Magazine in May of 2016. She works as a consultant and plays the guitar in her down time.