Thumb-Sucking Girl

Look at me.

At me, over here.

Look and shake your head all you want. At my uneven bangs, these broken-down shoes, my momma, all us kids and all our belongings shoved into just one car. Whisper and sigh all you want, because I have something better than good clothes and a permanent address. I’ve got my thumb. My right thumb, to be precise—and the soft pink underside of its arch. Forget that the nail on that thumb grows as smooth and flat as the inside of a seashell on account of all that sucking. Forget that my mother has tried everything (except hot pepper and mustard on my thumb, like my cousin Judith suggests, because my mother, though determined to rid me of my disgusting habit, thinks pepper and mustard too cruel for a child). Forget that I once deprived myself of the luxury of my thumb for a whole month just to show I could. Forget that my teeth have begun to split down the front, that the space will stretch wide eventually, that it will ruin my permanent teeth, according to my mother. Forget all that and understand that the plug of it in my mouth is what brings me sleep, and until you’ve plopped a thumb into your mouth and sucked on it while using the index finger of that same hand to cradle the line of bone under your eye, to rub up and down the fleshy valley of your nose—until you have done such a thing, you know nothing of comfort.

About the Author

Sonja Livingston

Sonja Livingston’s first book, Ghostbread, won the AWP Award for Creative Nonfiction and has been honored with awards from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, the Iowa Review, and the New York State Foundation for the Arts.

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