Miss Freckle

Vanessa Chan

There’s a freckle who lives on my nipple, on the southwest corner of my right breast. I would give you the exact longitude and latitude, but only if you promise to kiss her right, the way that makes her sigh not yell, blow on her gently like you would when wishing on a fallen eyelash, lick her like a crumb of your most favorite dessert that you cannot bear to let go to waste.

Miss Freckle has traveled the world. She has dangled off a mountain edge in Cuzco, eaten ant eggs in Mexico City, fought with night market vendors in Penang, nestled comfortably among the redwoods in Big Sur. She has felt the cool wash of waterfalls, the dry heat of deserts, the sticky sweat of tropical beaches, the mosquito bites of jungles. She has felt the back of hands, rough and wanting, soft and waiting. She has tasted breath and saliva, the delicate amylase both sweet and sour, warm first when the lips land, then cool when the mouth lifts. She is direct, determined, looks you in the eye and tells you what she wants and how she wants it. In certain circles she is a celebrity, whispered about in the most hushed of tones, the perfect size and shape.

The thing is — some men don’t listen to Miss Freckle. I’ve heard her mutter, then murmur, then shout, then scream, all the things she wants, faster, slower, more, less, not today, please not today, tomorrow, I have a headache, I hate you, go away, no no no, and still, the angry hands arrive, persistent, sweating, entitled, determined to take what they want, yet forgetting to give what was asked. The women inflict their violence in different ways — in snide, sideways looks that say she was asking for it, in hushed voices that whisper, well he has always been nice to me, in spiteful glances that hiss you know it’s lopsided right? Mothers and aunts and sister urge Miss Freckle to limit access, create doors, gates, and bouncers with bras, shirts, and sweaters. Everyone reminds Miss Freckle that only men get to wear their desire openly; that for women to display want is gluttony, and no one wants to be around that kind of shame. All of it makes Miss Freckle rage, and this rage makes her bulge, the little brown fleck becoming a spot, and then mole, and then a wart filled with pus, swollen, imbalanced, in pain.

I take Miss Freckle to the doctor who prods and pokes her; she holds her breath, taut and hurting, tears leaking out of her corners. The doctor tells me she has to go; she has become a growth, benign yes, but a menace; he says he will lance her off, says there will be no pain, no scar, and I won’t even remember she was there to begin with. Miss Freckle shakes so hard I feel her quivers pass through my ribs. “Make it stop,” she pleads, “Don’t let them take me away.”

I feel so bad for her, so furious at everyone who disregards her desires, her wants, her agency. I whisper that I will care for her, that no one will get to lance her, or bite her, or hurt her or shame her, disappear her, without her permission. I take her home and soothe her, make a warm compress and press her bulging sides gently, rub cool ointment on her. At first, I feel her throb against the nipple distrustfully. Then I feel her relax. The swelling subsides, her edges smoothen, her contours go back to the symmetrical brown roundness I used to know.

After a week indoors, just the two of us, I take her outside. The sun peeks through the clouds as though to spotlight our re-emergence, reminding us of the joy of our togetherness away from prying eyes and pressing hands. A mynah bird whistles, then the leaves of the angsana trees whistle too as the breeze sneaks by. Miss Freckle arches in my nipple, peeps through my shirt, turns her brown face towards the sun, and sighs a long, happy sigh.


about the author