"I just don't want to break stuff," is what he says to me. Stuff meaning the things inside me. He feels like he's starting to watch me crumble up inside, or maybe snap, or crack.

It reminds me of what he said to me before, what feels like a long time ago. Something about how I'm like china, not the country, but the plates. And it bothered me. I'm not like that, so delicate, so dainty, so frail. So ornamental and ultimately useless. I told him as much. I have this way of lashing out at him when he tries to be nice. So maybe I'm just a bitch. Or maybe it's just self-preservation, self-protection, because he's right, I am all fragile inside and I could shatter just like that.

He pushed back on me, if not china, what? Tupperware? Somehow he seems to have preposterously decided I need to have some kind of analogous dishware. You think you're plain, ordinary, durable, practical? I don't think those are such bad things, but he says them like they're the worst. Forgettable, replaceable, and ultimately disposable? Yeah okay, fine, I don't want to be tupperware. But what if I am?

I offer I could be something else instead, like a clay pot. From the earth. Unique and imperfect. Breakable, I guess, but still kind of thick and strong. I liked that thought.

Until I started to wonder what he wants this vessel to hold, wonder if he realized that he set me up as something empty that can be filled. By him? Its reading too much into things, I know. But there it is, maybe he's worried about cracks because broken I can't fulfill my purpose anymore, I can't hold him.

When things got bad, a long time before this, with another man, in sort of another life, I finally admitted it to a friend from way back, told her how it had gotten bad. And she apologized for not knowing what to say or what to do. She talked about that time I punched that boy, and pushed him, and made him cry. She said she always thought I could do more damage to boys than they could ever do to me.

Yeah, but Stephanie, we were ten. Things have changed.

Still though, it is weird to think of someone like me as breakable, its hard for me to see that in myself. Its different when you're fat, you're sort of separate from all that frailty that might be expected from you as a girl. You're something else, you've got these layers around you that protect all the stuff inside. You're grotesque and abhorrent, sure, and definitely weak, but not in a way that could break like the pretty thin girls might. And how many times have I heard it? "I like fucking you better than a skinny girl, with skinny girls it feels like I might break them."

He's never said that to me, the new guy. He still thinks he could break stuff, even through all that fat.

I've had the thought that he turns me into such a girl, a thought I try to banish from my brain as soon as it gets there, because that's not how enlightened feminists are supposed to think. But there it is. He makes me feel like a girl, like, I've cried in front of him, even. I texted him one night during a thunderstorm, "I wish you were here to protect me." But, I'm not afraid of thunderstorms, really. Why would I be? And yet. He turns me into this thing I don't quite recognize. Not all the time. There just are these moments of it, these flashes of it, and he sees them, and it makes him say I'm china, it makes him worry I could break.

I want to prove otherwise. Look, I'm strong, I'm tough. Here's the scar from when I fell off my bike. Here's my black belt in Tae Kwon Do. Here's my ripped jeans and my old sneakers, I wear them every day. Here's the shit I put up with, and here I am, still here, not broken, at least not broken down. You do not have to tiptoe, and you do not have to worry. You do not have to let me win at card games. You do not have to go away.

I will not break, not too much more than I have already. I don't think you could make it worse. Maybe you could help fix it. Stay.