Traitorous Skin

Aug 22  |  Charlie Rogers

Left my clothes at the water’s edge; seemed a fine idea to abandon them and submerge, but now my head’s breached the surface, and there’s no sign of them. Stolen, likely by a greedy tide.

The evening, snug and uneventful, had veered off course with a phone call, the important kind.

Your results.

Could not imagine the words coming from my mouth, not the sound nor the feel of them. Anyone who heard the news would repeat it, the next person would do the same. So on. So forth. A web of whispers. Next it’s me ensnared, sympathetic eyes staring me down from every direction. No, no pity. Not yet.

It’s mine, alone.

Made excuses to run outside, unaccompanied, down to the water and let it soak my shoes. Filled my pockets with sharp things, curved things, pretty things. The tides were still restless from a recent storm. Feet sank into sand with every step, leaving deep impressions. My legacy.

Salt in the breeze sang of my insignificance while the undisturbed sand snaked past infinity. Deserted. Nothing living as far as my eyes would take me.

Sloughed my skin of clothes, then stepped towards the horizon, and again, let the water devour my feet, shins, knees, more, my very self.

Looked back once, only once. Khaki shorts, red sweater, a silent pile. Houses rising behind that, windows lit with evidence of lives continuing. The news wasn’t theirs, still mine alone.

Before slipping under the water’s surface, spent a moment thinking: the future. Today, tomorrow, whatever’s left. What to do? Cut everyone out, live here half-underwater? Or sleep in a sterile room, a living tomb where my husband shakes hands with weepy strangers? Too much. The illusion of choice shimmered like starlight on the ocean’s surface.

Let the water borrow me. Closed my eyes, crossed my legs, and sank.

How much breath left in these lungs? How much life in this blood?

Waited for my chest to fill with nothingness, for an instinct to lift me, a living creature, still living. Hovering in the black water, a space carved only for me. It didn’t love me, nor should it.

Eventually the ocean rose me up, to the surface, and through.

My clothes are missing but I’m swaddled in the sea, an unfathomable body, greater than this traitorous skin.
Above, the moon is a whisper, a sliver, and there’s a star for every needle that’s stuck me, maybe more, for the pinpricks to come. Time to go. Home. To speak the words.

I rise, naked, to find my way back, dripping, freezing, alive at last in this instant, at last, alive.

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  1. John OConnor2 years ago


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