This essay is part of The Ferrante Project, a collective of 32 female writers and artists of color experimenting with the freedom of anonymity.
Black women are supposed to have strong backbones but my Black back is jacked.
Before he cracked my neck, the chiropractor told me I had an Atlas tilt at the top of my cervical spine. The weight of the world on my shoulders. It was unclear to me whether the Atlas could be manipulated back into place on its axis.
Ori mi pe, the classic Adire cloth indigo design, literally translates as, “my head is correct.” In Yoruba belief the head is the seat of personal destiny. Therefore, ori mi pe means, “I will have a good destiny.” But my head is not correct. The junction of my skull and spine is off, the nerve center misfiring in that cathedral of delicate bones. I wonder what this means about my destiny.
When did I start feeling the pain? I think it was when our republic elected the demagogue. I remember the presidential debate. She, in her white pantsuit. He, pacing behind her like a menacing ape. The familiarity of that dance. He’s going to hit her, I thought. I clenched my shoulders. I have not been able to unclench them since.
The election coincided with a great heartbreak of which I dare not speak, even with a facsimile of anonymity. The heartache would fall to others, like a chain of dominoes, wrecking multiple lives. I would rather carry the grief alone. It is enough to say that the external calamity, which was political, coincided with the internal calamity, which was personal. My body, my country: broken.
Cervix refers to the neck, or any neck-like part, especially the constricted lower end of the uterus.
When he was deep inside me, my lover, my predator, claimed that he could feel my cervix.
“Do you feel guilty?” asked the primary care physician before referring me to a psychotherapist. I was already seeing a therapist, who’d insisted on blood work and recommended bringing my husband to vouch for the truth of my pain since doctors, as a general rule, disbelieve women. My husband was busy. I was busier than him by far, and on top of that, I was sick. The blood test could not explain why my hair was…