Uniform

by Brenna Elmore

Artwork by Liz Chiu


I am a Catholic schoolgirl’s uniform, a pleated plaid skort and scratchy off-white polo. I hang on people in unflattering ways, cement to them in the wrong places, gift them with a persistent, migrating itch. I never know when to let go and move on. I am the hem of the polo, tucked in carefully and tight by a parent each morning and shoved back in when I fall out. I am the waist of the skort, dared to be rolled up higher and higher by the seemingly innocent. I am the forbidden makeup of a Catholic schoolgirl. I mask the fear, the ugly, the awkward. I cover up all: the mistakes, the blemishes, the slips. I leave mascara tear trails in my wake. I am a mask the atheist with Catholic parents dons.

I am the stain that makes its way down the front of your polo after spilling a carton of milk. I cause the fabric to be forever stiff and never cease to smell rotten. I am the mud coating your white sneakers after an intense game of tag. I wash out, but the faint beige from my birth into this world will never fade. I am your heartbroken, tear-stained collar after you witness your middle-school crush hugging another. I am the smell of the boy embracing the enemy, the smell of Gain laundry detergent mixed with a stale abundance of Axe.

I am the memories from Catholic school, the one thing people never fail to complain about. There are flaws and faults in my pristine design, but if history has proven anything, people that wore me will tell stories about me for the rest of their lives.

He is worn sweatpants, relief and warmth, beauty and comfort. He stretches and molds to fit around a pair of tired legs. His fabric is both forgiving and a glove all at the same time. He sits on a pedestal a thousand platforms higher than me– he is at the top of the food chain and I at the bottom. He is relaxation; I am work. He causes sleep; I cause pain. He gets placed on athletes after a game, a drug dealer after a deal, cold children after a long day spent in the snow. I am said to be snobby and exclusive while he caters to all types of bodies, all types of persons. I yearn to be him, to only cause pure pleasure and not constant irritation. Each day I peek at him from across the closet and wonder how my life would be different if I were comprised of cotton instead of polyester. One day I hope to be made out of the same material as him, to deserve to be, but until then I will be scratchy and uncomfortable, a screwed-up, rotten-smelling, beige-stained mess who only leaves pain in her wake

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