ENOUGH: The Host Body

By

ENOUGH is a Rumpus series devoted to creating a dedicated space for essays, poetry, fiction, comics, and artwork by women and non-binary people that engage with rape culture, sexual assault, and domestic violence.

The series will run every Tuesday afternoon. Each week we will highlight different voices and stories.

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The Host Body
Alissa Hattman

host1
/hōst/
noun

1. a person who receives or entertains other people.

“the host greeted the guests”

2. BIOLOGY

an animal or plant on or in which a parasite or organism lives.

  • a living cell in which a virus multiplies.
  • a person or animal that has received transplanted tissue or a transplanted organ.

Origin
Middle English: from Old French hoste, from Latin hospeshospit- ‘host, guest.’

host2
/hōst/
noun
a large number of people or things.
“a host of memories rushed into her mind”

Origin
Middle English: from Old French osthoost, from Latin hostis ‘stranger, enemy.’

 

A Host Body is Made

With her own hands,
she folds cloth napkins.

She is in uniform—
a white button-down
with a short, black skirt.

The men mosey in.

Her smile is lipstick.

She seats them at the VIP table.

They unfold napkins
over their wide laps.

With his eyes, he lays
a dead egg inside her.

While she tells them
the specials,

______“T-Bone Steak
______with warm shiitake
______and pomegranate
______seeds,”

they colonize her face.

His hand, up a skirt,
lays claim to her ass.

She doesn’t miss
a beat—

______“And a round
______of Macallan to start?”

Later that night,
the host body
peels off her clothes.

One hot shower and
his aborted
egg
slips
out and
down
her thigh,
down
the dirty
d
r
a
i
n.

In that moment,
it almost feels like
her hands are
her hands
only.

 

The Reservoir Host Body

A reservoir host is an entity where a disease-causing organism can live and multiply. The reservoir host serves as a source of infection and potential reinfection of humans and as a means to sustain a parasite.

When your parents leave
for Hawaii, the nanny stays
to take care of you.

Her name is Jenny.

She’s a college student
with freckled ears,
and straw-blonde hair.

Her boyfriend is Chris.

He smells like cloves
and wet carpet, sideburns
like the boys on 90210.

You are eleven.

Jenny is in love,
but Chris flirts with you.

Spends time at your
house—
______you wish
______he wouldn’t.

It makes Jenny hate you
and like him more
which seems to be the point.

Luckily, she still feeds you,
but you have to ask nicely.

May I please have mac and cheese?

Chris sits next to you,
head of the table,
your father’s chair.
Says that you’re pretty.

You stab the macaroni with a fork.

He leans in
like he might kiss you and
even though you are

______s c r e a m i n g

____________inside,

your body is fixed, a man-made supply.

He brushes his stubble
against your cheek.

How does that feel?
He’s smiling at Jenny
but expects you to answer.

You think maybe if
you stay quiet and still,

______wish hard enough,

you might disappear.

How does it feel?
he demands,
and then pulls a word
out of his mouth
like a
long
red
string
and
stuffs the whole of it
down your throat.

You cough it up—

______Rough, you say.

He says: You feel soft. So soft.

Jenny pushes you off the chair.
Your cheekbone hits linoleum.

Finish your supper and go play.

 

The Host Body Forgotten

It’s summer
and too warm for
Wonder Woman PJs,
but you wear them anyway
itchy, damp, and clinging.

You wait for the house
to fall asleep;
silence means it’s safe
to use the bathroom.

You are barefoot
__________________(or in your poodle slippers)

walking the steps—

_1,
______2,
____________3,
__________________and 4, 5, 6, 7, 8—

but then
you hear
MacGyver.
________________________(Even today,
________________________you get the willies when
________________________you see the back of a man’s head
________________________resting in a recliner.)

“Can’t sleep?”
the back of his head says.
“Come sit with me.”

But you’re not supposed
to watch TV after
nine o’clock.

A hand waves an okay
and you know it’s lap time.

He sips from a can of beer.

You ask how it tastes
and he says “try,”
so you do, and
it is so horrible,
like carbonated puke.

You make a face.
He laughs and
you gulp it down
________________________(or did you spit it out?)

He rubs his hand
on your bare leg.
Rubs and rubs.

“You’re cold.”

Rubs and rubs and rubs—

“No, I’m not.”

“Yes, you are.”                         (no, you were not)

rubsandrubsandrubsandrubsandrubsandrubsandrubsandrubsandrubsandrubslike an
________________________eraser—
________________________rubs and rubs
________________________you away.

He shifts in the chair
and you feel something hard.
Was it his hip? You don’t know.
________________________(it could’ve been)

You jump down, and
say, “Goodnight.”

“C’mere.”

He presses his lips into your cheek.
________________________(your father,
________________________or was it your older brother?)

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Rumpus original logo art by Luna Adler.

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ENOUGH is a Rumpus original series devoted to creating a dedicated space for work by women and non-binary people that engages with rape culture, sexual assault, and domestic violence. We believe that while this subject matter is especially timely now, it is also timeless. We want to make sure that this conversation doesn’t stop—not until our laws and societal norms reflect real change. You can submit to ENOUGH here.

Many names appearing in these stories have been changed.

Visit the archives here.