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The Girls

Hatred was easy. The permutations constant over the years: a stranger at a fair who palmed my crotch through my shorts. A man on the sidewalk who lunged at me, then laughed when I flinched. The night an older man took me to a fancy restaurant when I wasn’t even old enough to like oysters. Not yet twenty. The owner joined our table, and so did a famous filmmaker. The men fell into a heated discussion with no entry point for me: I fidgeted with my heavy cloth napkin, drank water. Staring at the wall. “Eat your vegetables,” the filmmaker suddenly snapped at me. “You’re a growing girl.” The filmmaker wanted me to know what I already knew: I had no power. He saw my need and used it against me.

—Emma Cline