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Thumb-Sucking Girl

By Sonja Livingston

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. Iíve 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 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, 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 youíve 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 Ė until you have done such a thing, you know nothing of comfort.


Sonja Livingston's essays have won an Iowa Award, an AWP Intro Award, a Pushcart prize nomination, and grants from the Barbara Deming Fund and the Vermont Studio Center. Her work appears in The Iowa Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Karamu, Gulf Coast, Blue Mesa Review, Puerto del Sol, Apalachee Review, Whetstone, and SHORT TAKES, an anthology of nonfiction forthcoming from W.W. Norton. Livingston earned an MFA from the University of New Orleans in 2004.

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