Disposable Bodies

“What about this one?” I turned so he could see me, but he didn’t seem interested. I couldn’t be angry; I was picking my new body for me, not for him. It didn’t bother me that he didn’t look. I turned back to the mirror, examining this body’s hips one more time.

I came here often of late, perhaps every few weeks. Countless bodies lay draped in chairs behind me, discarded after trying them on. My room would have looked much the same if not for this boutique’s trade-in policies. I looked to the salesman’s reflection while the thought was in my head. “What do you do with all the old bodies people trade in?”

“We destroy them,” he said. “What else would we do?”

Of course they destroyed them. There were second-hand shops, though they were often of ill repute. Besides, I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want an old body. I nodded in satisfaction and resumed my twisting and turning. I’d chosen a female body again. Not because my boyfriend liked it, but because they were more fun to dress. I’d had all sorts of bodies before, slender and curvy, athletic and apathetic, male and female. I didn’t care if he found them attractive. If I wanted him to touch me, I’d have just slipped on his old favorite, the slim and bronze-skinned form I kept in the closet at home. It was my only backup, I didn’t care to keep as many as most. There were some I knew who changed bodies every three weeks to avoid the part of having a female body nobody liked. That was the way it worked; you picked a body, used it up, then switched it for something new.

The bell on the door rang. The salesman looked toward it. “Do you want to take that one?” It was his polite way of saying he needed to attend whoever just came in.

“I’m not sure. You go ahead.”

He skittered across the room like a dry leaf. It was none of my business what other people visited the boutique for, but when I saw her reflected in my mirror, my new eyebrows climbed my forehead.

“I want to return this body,” she said, already scanning the racks for a new skin to wear. “It’s defective.”

The salesman worried his hands. “Whatever is the matter with it? You’ve only had it a week!”

“It’s too finicky about food. It becomes shaky, weakened and cold if I don’t eat right on time.” A curious problem, one I’d never heard of. There was a time when people existed who could fix problems like those. Doctors, I think they were called. But that was before people could change their bodies as easily as changing clothes.

“Oh dear, oh dear.” The salesman twisted his hands harder. Out of concern for his business’s reputation more than his client’s experience, I’m sure. “Come along, we’ll fetch you a new one straight away!”

I watched them move toward the newest bodies, tucked away in their glass cases, and bemoaned my poor luck. She had it. The perfect body, the one I wanted. The one I was too late for. I reevaluate my opinion on second-hand bodies before I catch myself. It was defective. Useless, no good.

But what if it isn’t? The thought nagged at me without relent. What if she’s wrong? And even if it is defective, what if it can be fixed? My brows crumpled together as I watched the salesman pull a new body from its case to show her the fine shape of its fingernails.

What did people do when their favorite body broke? How could you keep it from breaking? The thought came like a hammer blow. I could almost hear the ringing fall of glass as my fragile perception shattered. Maybe they weren’t meant to be broken. Maybe what we declared broken or wrong was fixable or misunderstood.

I was told once of women who kept their worn and used-up bodies after having children. I never understood why they might. Yet here I was, looking at a body that was used, broken and imperfect, and wanting it more than anything in the world. I understood now.

“I’ll take it,” I said, stepping down from the mirror.

The salesman blinked. “The body you have on?”

“No.” I lifted my hand and, as my finger marked her in front of me, even my boyfriend looked up. “Hers.”

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