Sans Souci: An Old Shed

by Tim Gilmore, 6/20/2012

They gave her ridiculous reasons to stay away from the old shed, which only ensured that she would visit the old shed. What she found there ashamed her and disgusted her toward parts of her own body. There were cans on top of cans of oil and piles of engines and obscure and obsolete car parts and boxes of pornographic magazines. She felt reduced to the parts of her she did not yet fully understand and she felt someone had attacked her in places she did not understand. She did not understand why anyone would do this to her. The air was full of oil and grease that sunk down 10 feet into the ground.

The reasons they gave her for staying away from the old shed were foolish. The shed was evil. A devil lived in the shed. She knew there were no such things as devils with their horns and their red tails. The shed, they said, was older than the city, older than the country, older than the state. The shed, they said, was older than the peninsula’s being above the level of the waters of the ocean. The shed, they said, at the end of the street, the shed that seemed to be associated with no house in the neighborhood, the shed was as old as hell. A devil lived in the shed.

What she saw in the shed she saw when the devil was not home, but she saw from a distance the bent-up man who always went in and out of the shed. She knew not to tell the other kids that a devil lived there. She told them what she knew would keep them away. There’s nothing there, she said. It’s sad and it’s dirty and it stinks. The grown-ups are crazy or stupid.

And in the years coming she soon understood that her body was not the bodies in the magazines in the shed when the bent-up man was not at home. Her body was not the parts of their bodies that were swollen and red and exposed. Her body was hers and for her and magnificent and did not belong to anyone but her and could not be reduced. The shed was sad and dirty and it stunk, but her body was its opposite, and no one could make decisions for her body but her.

At some point, when she was at college several states away, the shed burnt down, but she never knew it did, and by then, her body was entirely her body, and her mind was lit up like a skyline at night.