Bone Clean – Ginger Ko


I needed to write Bone Clean because I have missed the late-night talks I had with the other women in my master’s writing program. We had all come from very far away to study the craft of writing in a tiny high plains town. We were all in our late twenties, married or divorced, and socially distinct from the younger, more glamorous students in our cohort because we were tired of drinking, and desperately tired of trying to find ourselves. It had already turned out that there wasn’t anything to find. Instead, since we were all living in a place that was cold and dark for most of the year, we would gather around someone’s kitchen table at night, still in our coats, when the babies were asleep, and methodically roll a dozen cigarettes. Then we would hold out our hands and ask the others to take their pick: lumpy or smooth, thick or thin, tight or loose. And then tramp outside in our boots and sit on the cold yard furniture: metal painfully grated against our backsides, or cracked plastic with too much give, or wood that never really dried out from all the melted snow. And we talked so much, gossiped and schemed and dissected.

Men would pass through our conversations—husbands letting out the dog, boyfriends joining for a smoke, friends wheeling their bikes through—but their brief intrusions were always overcome no matter how meaningful their contributions. Men who were present during these gatherings were shouted down, waved off, or left to quietly listen just outside of the circle of coated, smoking women. When the humidity was high, the smoke was hung up just above our hair. We talked and laughed so quickly and all at once that neighbors would often turn on their lights and stare out their windows. The conversations were a women’s space. The conversations were dependent on the collusion of women.

Bone Clean is my continuation of these women’s nights. We often spoke about women’s writing and relationships and health as if upholding all the subjects at once was easy. So easy that we would delve all the way down to the bone and pick it clean. I am still friends with many of the women I had these conversations with, but we are now distinct from each other. We graduated and separated. Bone Clean is my side of things, sending it out and waiting for their side of things. Bone Clean is my loneliness. My wish for a woman’s response, for our conspiracy.


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