When I was a girl, I had a dirty soul. I hoped no one would notice. Sometimes I took it off and tried to clean it—to rinse it with a hose or put it in the washer. But the dirt wouldn’t come off. Sometimes it dried to a fine gray dust and rose up my nose and gave me such a head cold, I couldn’t stop sneezing. “Allergies,” I said to anyone passing by. Other times, my soul refused to dry. If I put it in the dryer, the thing shrank like a wool sweater. If I hung it in the bathroom, it absorbed all the smells of the goings-on in there: urine, shit, hair sprays, toilet cleaners. But if I pinned it to the clothesline outside, the clouds gathered, and the rains followed. Sometimes there was even a monsoon. (Souls, they give you such trouble.) I’d end up rushing out to grab it before the rivers rose. Eventually, I gave up and put the soul back on, still damp and cold. What a terrible sensation, like clinging to a swamp. That’s when my first lover came along. He was always telling me to hush—stop complaining, stop being such a perfectionist. He had a thing for troubled girls. He held me close, his fingers so hot, so impatient, so full of lust, they left imprints on my inner thighs. After we made love, I’d lie awake wanting to talk. “I can’t go on like this”, I said. But he wasn’t listening. He was fast asleep, my soul wrapped around him like a filthy, old coat.