One day, my rib spoke to me and said: "I will tell you when the right guy comes along. The one and only. Like in fairytales."
She went on to say: "You are strong and beautiful. You are a princess. You deserve."
After my first surprise subsided, I replied: "I don't believe in fairytales anymore. I believe you have to take what you get."
She was just a rib, so what was she supposed to know?
I started to suspect that my rib really had the third eye when she broke the first time. It was just too weird. I mean, who breaks a rib tightening their ski boot? My rib later told me it was to show her anger that Marc didn't help me do it. Marc was my boyfriend at the time. He was my first love. He was tall, dark-haired, smooth and macho, just how I liked them. Not my rib. So she broke and Marc was mad at me for ruining our ski vacation, because he felt forced to stay with me and play nurse in front of my parents. At the time, I cursed my rib and only weeks later, when I saw him at the video store, kissing another girl, I realized my rib was right. He was a schmuck. My rib claimed she knew long ago, the first time I met him. She says she knows by the way guys hold me. She can feel their fingertips pressing down on her smooth, thin, ebony body, rubbing up and down, and her tiny sensors can tell right away if this is a keeper or not. Marc didn't get her sensors beeping. "They didn't even wake up," she said. I have to admit, whenever he held me, there was no strength in his embrace. No passion. Only possession. I always felt I could have slipped out of his embrace without him noticing. My rib complained, his weak touch made her feel like a flimsy piece of chicken bone. I don't know much about what ribs joke about all day, but I guess "chicken bone" is a mean thing to say to each other. The first time of course, I said: "You're crazy. You're my rib. You're not supposed to have thoughts of your own. You're not alive." But the pain I felt was very much alive.
The second one was Trevor. The thing with Trevor was I knew from the beginning that he was wrong for me, but that was just what excited me the most. Unlike Marc, the quiet macho, he was a raging patriarch of the worst kind. He made me feel unworthy and small. He made me beg for affection. Looking into his dark green eyes, I would have done anything for him. I tried hard to ignore my rib ranting and yelling when he held me close, which was sporadic and violent. Then one night, he came home, drunk. He flung me onto the bed and as he was grunting on top of me I could feel my rib banging against the wooden slats of the bed. CRACK, it gave. My scream reverberated through the night. It woke up the whole neighborhood. The pain was excruciating, but all I felt was relief that it was over. My rib had saved me from Trevor. When I was wheeled into the ambulance, Trevor had disappeared -- out of guilt or more possibly, indifference. I never saw him again. In the hospital, I spent sleepless nights, trying to apologize to my rib. I told her how right she was, how much I valued her as my friend. First I thought she was just numbed by all the painkillers they had given us, but secretly I feared that she would never speak to me again. It made me very sad and lonely. I suddenly realized that she was the only friend I could trust in this world.
The doctor came in and showed me an x-ray. He said: "Ribs are flat, curved bones that form the framework of the chest and make up a cage to protect the heart, lungs and upper organs. There are twelve pairs of ribs, each joined at the back of the cage to a vertebra in the spine. There are seven true ribs attached to the sternum directly by their costal cartilages. The remaining five pairs are called "floating ribs," because their cartilages do not reach the sternum directly." He went on and on like that.
I stopped listening. I didn't like what he said. He made my friend sound so lifeless, like a solid mass of something, a cold armor of protection, not human, no feelings, only dead purpose. I didn't want to think of her that way. I wanted to think of her the way she described herself to me the first time we spoke. She said: "I'm the lowest of six rib children, curving out from my mother, the spine, around your lower back to the front of your chest. I'm a floating rib, which means I'm free to dream. I'm your friend and companion."
I knew who she was from the first x-ray picture I have of her. It's a pretty picture, but it belies her strength, her true personality. On the x-ray, she appears so faint, like a ghost, fragile, transparent, ethereal. A thin, curved bone, like a spirit with a long white tail. But when she speaks, her voice is so strong, that of a full-blooded woman, independent and beautiful. A woman of taste and culture, of hopes and dreams. I shut my ears to the doctor and secretly hoped my rib would forgive me and still dream of me as being a princess that deserved.
After a couple of days, she still didn't speak and in my desperation, I cried and begged her and whimpered: "My dear friend, my dear friend." I got no answer. I started rubbing her, just the way she likes it, with soft strokes of the fingertips for hours on end. After a while my pain subsided, and I knew her body had healed. But her heart? I waited and waited. Then one night -- I was lingering in an exhausted state between wake and sleep -- her voice suddenly rose from deep within me, stronger than ever before. From then on, we were best friends. I felt invincible with her by my side, full of an inner confidence I never knew, because I had accepted her friendship and her trust.
We started going out together, always on the look-out for our prince, and every place I entered, I entered like a cowboy with a gun in his holster, only it was my rib. We sorted the wheat from the chaff, relentlessly and without restraint. But for a long time, we found no prince worthy of us.
Then one day, I was sitting in a coffee shop, wildly laughing with my rib over some chicken bone jokes she told me, when she suddenly got very quiet. I could feel her aching strongly, but it was a different aching. She was aching with longing. I turned around and saw him. He was short and blonde and prickly. Tiny hairs stuck out from a rugged face, not the smooth, hairless, macho faces that used to boil my insides with primate want. He was so unlike my type, I wouldn't have noticed him, if it hadn't been for a softness flowing about him, and a smile to embrace the whole world. My rib didn't have to say it. I asked him out.
One night it happened. In front of my doorstep, he embraced me. In an instant my rib and I melted away and we urged him to come inside. My rib and I wanted to make love to him right then and there, but he said: "Lie down on your belly."
We obeyed. He lied down beside us, his head resting in his hand, his eyes watching over us, while he started rubbing my back with his other hand, right where my rib lives. His fingertips glided up and down the sides of my spine, almost ticklish, and a languorous and yet prickly sensation of goose bumps made the hairs on my body quiver like tiny sprigs of grass in a tornado. In that moment we fell in love, my rib and I, and the three of us lived together, happily ever after.
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