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The Horse’s Name Was Friday

Written By Adora Limani
Cover Art by


A creative exploration of understanding oneself through one's physical body. Take a look into the nature of symbols using personal accounts, family history, and the work of Umberto Eco. It is, above all, a personal confession told through the eyes – or perhaps terrifying mouth – of girlhood.

Editors’ Note

I’ve had this feeling where I can sense my skin lying on top of my bones. Like a carpet, like a winter jacket. My physical appearance is a constructed building: eyeballs go into the eye sockets, nails go into the nail beds, skin covers the joints. But I feel no intrinsic ownership over this architectural monstrosity, it’s as though each synthetic piece is latching onto the other – trying, in vain, to create a sense of physical identity. I put my dog in front of my mirror yesterday and she didn’t look at herself, either in protest or in confusion. Maybe she also refuses to recognize an identity made of nothing more than fragile flesh. Maybe she is unable to see herself that way. So docile, so frail. Why is it that I’m expected to connect my sense of self to this carpet on my bones? Why do I have to look in the mirror at all? 

Since I don’t want to be a physical girl I’d settle for being an intangible idea. A symbol of a girl. The thought that my physical form simply represents a girl, a girl that signifies some greater principle or dogma, is attractive and cathartic. A girl so singular yet all-encompassing, free from the burden of constructing a complex identity. To be treated as a religious or political symbol, rooted in the Earth and its history, would mean to be treated with the dignity and respect of a perfect representation. Whenever I pass by a mirror I think of my dog, and I don’t look myself in the eyes. I pretend I’m a universal girl, on the cover of a newspaper or a missing person’s poster. I pretend I’m a vessel for communicating the decay of society, or a new mascara brand. Only looked at for what I symbolize. 

I was reading The Name of the Rose, and found a passage that stuck out to me concerning singularity and universal ideas. Eco writes: “I found myself halfway between the perception of the concept ‘horse’ and the knowledge of an individual horse. And in any case, what I knew of the universal horse had been given to me by those traces, which were singular. I could say I was caught at that moment between the singularity of the traces and my ignorance, which assumed the quite diaphanous form of a universal idea.” I stopped to picture myself as a horse, as Adso of Melk, as a girl. My skin clasped around my bones tightly. I was caught up in the dissonance between universal symbols and individual meanings. 

I remember my trip to Istanbul, when I stepped into a mosque that was not a mosque at all, but a coalescence of holy worship. Half mosque, half church, remnants of conquest were vivid and visceral on the walls of the Hagia Sophia. Its religious purpose had always been dictated by whoever ruled over Constantinople, and to the current Turkish government it was undoubtedly a mosque. Christian and Islamic paintings blurred into each other, ending abruptly in destroyed ruins. They were erased and painted over by hand; the symbol transformed at the whim of men. On metro walls in Vienna, I saw how swastikas became grids for tic-tac-toe, passerby filling in the X’s and O’s as the symbol slowly deteriorated in form and meaning. Originally, the swastika was a cultural and religious symbol implying fortune and well-being. I somehow felt its development was buried deep within the metro walls, until it finally succumbed under a graffiti artist’s hand. 

In the dawn of Yugoslavia, my great-grandfather embraced the atheist label. An aspiring academic, he had studied theology in Sarajevo as a young man. To him, religious scripture was merely a text to be critically studied. His wife, on the other-hand, adorned the hijab; a label of staunch resistance to his intellectualism. Obviously, he could not be an intellectual with a covered wife, as these two universal ideas had no point of intersection. When friends visited their home or they attended public events, they reached a compromise: my great-grandmother would wear a wig, so that he could maintain his reputation and she could maintain her faith. Their identities meant virtually nothing in relation to each other only a few years prior. The symbols seemed stronger than the very individuals that created them. Engulfing them in false universality, strict and unforgiving. 

I believed symbols are so entrenched in history and connotation that I forgot they are so malleable. I watched them break, bend, and stretch, yet still had faith in their durability. “A cowboy rides into town on Friday, stays in town for 3 days, then leaves on Friday. How did he do it?,” my grandfather asked me when I was a child. He still loves to ask me riddles, and always the most ridiculous kind. The horse’s name was Friday. I know that now. Back then, I wouldn’t have fathomed that response. It’s instinctive to always assume the name ‘Friday’ denotes the fifth day of a week, a symbol of time passed. The riddle shows how hesitant we are to accept the fallible nature of symbols, that Friday is the fifth day of a week but it can also be the name of a horse. There is nothing essential about the name ‘Friday’ to the passing of time; ‘Friday’ can be changed by governments and drawn over with spray paint. Much like Eco’s horse, the horse in my grandfather’s riddle is far from a representation of a universal idea. It’s only our ignorance that gives it such a form. 

Perhaps becoming a symbol would not be very different to what I am already. Perhaps the vulnerable flesh of a living, breathing girl is not very different to the vulnerability of an obsolete symbol. Both require theatrical fabrication, and elaborate myths about their supposed power. I look in the mirror once more, smiling. I am not a universal girl. The horse’s name was Friday.

About The Author

Adora Limani is an 18 year old poet and writer. Her poetry has been published in Brown University’s College Hill Independent, and Wild Greens Magazine in Philadelphia. She has written journalistic articles on feminist issues for Balkan publications Respublica, PortAlb, and Kosovo 2.0. She likes complex female characters, jazz clubs, rubix cubes; and dislikes small talk, waiting for the bus, and waiting for divine intervention.