I’m stuck to the screen when a toothpaste ad reminds me I haven’t cleaned my teeth in two days, which means I haven’t showered in two days, since that’s where I brush. It’s more efficient that way. I wonder how long a body can survive unscrubbed, if filth and decay is a life or death process. With no infection or interference, no action or interaction, what minor scum accrues can only be more skin. An excess flesh carapace encasing my corpus in quiddity. Then an ad for a dating app comes up and I decide to take a bath.
Both of us wear splinters shaped by other people in the layers of our skin. We take turns removing some, examining others, and guarding the rest. This one, I say, goes pretty deep, it’s shaped like a betrayal of trust. ‘Fascinating,’ she says, pulling it gingerly from my heart. ‘I got this one when realising they didn’t see the world like me.’ I pluck it tenderly from her eye and toss it on the pile. When we are done we talk about the absence of pain, wondering how we could have lived for so long with such prickling discomfort.
We are so porous now that our moods break the skin without even touching. Are you ok, I say, and she tells me not to say it, which I understand but do anyway, wanting to help. She sees me struggling like this and asks, is there anything I can do? I tell her not to worry and worry myself with her concerns. Of course, the happiness filters through too, the joy and love and revelries. This feels amazing, she says, and I don’t respond, she knows full well what happens when we’re near. We fill each other so completely.
I treat my fingers as nascent nomads trekking between oases. Their journey of enlightenment is never ending. They move constantly, treading sensuous landmarks and soaking in the succour of skin. Swami of sensation still reticent to teach, they learn all they can reach, locusts swarming a beach, rampant yet methodical, their knowledge poised beneath thin dermal frocking, never frolicking but at peace with the pace they keep. Their journey has been steep, moving from sleep to the summit of a third eye’s awakening, quaking with philosophy. I treat my fingers better than myself, offering them only to the worthy.
I love the creases, those little folds where two bits of skin butt together and force a compromise, the coarse, cold lustre in the raw fact of a body and the ability of our meticulous machines to contain the capacity for flaw. Perfection seems almost imprecise to me now, lazy somehow. Let me see the curves and bumps and blemishes and errors, they are impeccably base, idiosyncratic, artistically erotic, and easily outstrip any attempt at replication or suppression. Undressing the body of ideals reveals a form where nothing gorgeous is the norm and beauty is selfless and sensuously free.
Every night’s another death, that’s why sometimes I’m so reticent to sleep, having left lessons unlearnt and a days work unaccomplished. It’s like trying to build a building using the surrealist writing game, every incarnation absorbed and only the folded remnants to work with. I wonder about each soul that takes to the task, such variegated people sitting in a single skin and purpose put to rest only to be picked at like a mid-seam stitch. I wonder every day if the me I’ll be will accomplish what I wanted when his time comes, who will that be?
Sometimes her hands are mine, inhabiting my tendons to move my flesh with tenderness. I marvel as they manipulate my skin, gliding with such unbeknownst elegance. I never yet possessed such delicacy, such intimate efficacy. Her voice in my mind, such divine intervention, rendered in exquisitely fine detail, beckons and cajoles, rolls and ravishes my whole body. This bloody sack of hopes has sat, doped and somnolent, so long that corpuscles had withered to deprive my spirit of its life. Now, sometimes, her hands are mine, they sense things I could never find, and touch with blind, unexpurgated fervour.
I fell down and broke my skin then sat there staring at the wound. ‘What is it,’ Arris asked. I told her it was circumstance, clumsiness, a lack of care on my behalf. ‘Can we fix it?’ I watched the blood seeping and said, I doubt it. ‘This is the dumbest thing I’ve seen you do,’ she said. Not getting hurt but passively accepting it. ‘You are strong and resilient. I am smart, we can fix this.’ I lay my hand over the wound so she couldn’t see it, and smile, winsome. Some things just need time to heal.
A doctor told me it was low grade Tourette’s, the internet diagnosis is autonomous sensory meridian response, a memeable quality with millions of streamable views. For me, it’s a course of soft lighting extending from skull’s base to skin’s pinnacle, every cell it touches rippling and vibrating in queue with tsunamic pace. It’s some kind of sight to see, I’m told, but I wouldn’t know, my eyes always close, my mind suddenly severed from all its endeavours. They call it disorder in some circles, but I’ll happily be broken if that’s what it means, let the electricity have me.
It’s hard not to watch her, the water beading at her skin like sea pearls sloughed by the ocean onto a beach made of glass. You’re beautiful, I say, ignoring the shower spray hitting my face. She spits a mouthful of it in the air like a childish cherubic fountain and smiles under the downpour. ‘I’m so wet,’ she says, laughing harder than the liquid’s porcelain patter. I mean, I say, your skin looks like freshly turned ochre spread by coarse, artists fingers. ‘Shush,’ she says, get my back. I put my hands upon her gladly and drink deep.
I walk out on Kirsten’s diatribe and Sarah’s endlessly bobbing head. People make me feel uneasy, my skin begins to reject the host, layers of muck and membrane and philosophy splayed apart and rewrapped about my being, slipping like loose silk upon a maypole, little by enough, tiny contrasts exposing themselves as invisible sores upon my body, itching at me in an impenetrable way. My legs shake, unsure and belligerent, taking their ragged cues from my lungs. My mind, only sluggishly, makes demands of my nerves, sputtering and cowed beneath the stratum, woven throughout the functions of the flesh.
I can feel my skin wearing me, even after all this time it feels borrowed, like an Amazon meat sheath delivered to the wrong door and not returned out of necessity. It doesn’t even look like mine, but I’ve been hauling it around so long it’s gotten hold of familiarity and keeps wringing the thing every time somebody sees us. I can’t peel it off or pry me out of it, even if I could how could I choose a replacement, I don’t know what I should look like. I resign myself to it and all its incumbent tortures.