sk-in

noun:
//ex: this skin//
the (thin) layer
sturdy but begging
to be peeled off

verb:
//ex: to skin//
when it happens
unwillingly
a nasal voice laughs
more than one way to skin a cat
but none of those ways involve coaxing
clean, patient walk out
nothing still-living
clinging to the rind

Field Notes:

  1. This is the largest organ in the body. Our subject read this in her high school science book but knows it isn’t true for everyone– the growing back process is slow– barely covering the soles of her feet. What she does know: the old skin folds like a bed sheet with crisp corners brought together, it weighs as much as a small bowling ball, a large bag of sugar in her canvas tote bag. She knows she has been carrying this weight her entire life, so ostensibly, it won’t be difficult. But on the way to work, fishnets under sweatpants, this occurs to her: until now, it has been evenly distributed, she carried it without making the decision to– never had the option of leaving it behind, shoved behind an old pair of boots in her closets. She could leave the house without it, muscles pink and gleaming beneath yellow bra straps. But there is something comfortable about the weight– how when her exposed muscles strain to carry it, everyone around her must bear witness.
  2. A man walks into a club. His skin: pale pink cowering under dark hairs. On the stage, a woman in fishnets dances slowly, eyes fixed on the mirror above the patrons. Loud music quivers in her thin, dark veins. The man tries to make eye contact, shifting from place to place, beer condensation rolling down his arm, before shouting, “hey, show a little skin, would ya?” He thinks he has said something very clever. She locks eyes with the man, a smudge of silver above each round, unblinking eyeball. She is unable to wink, but it is still implied. She slinks behind the curtain, one pointed boot left pointed outwards– a phantom limb. Something to hold him over. Behind the stage there are rolls of fabric in dark reds and purples. Some of the girls make their own skin with this– gluing rhinestones with tweezers, some are more old fashioned. Another woman, cellphone pressed to her ear, faux-snakeskin unzipped, calls her son’s babysitter, “He will eat his broccoli. He knows how this works, don’t let him pull this shit on you.”
  3. Our subject hears don’t let him pull that shit on you
  4. She pulls the skin from the tote bag, olive toned, slightly dried-out, speckled with tattoos: small blue hearts, a stick-n-poke dagger, “Rob,” and “Dave,” and “Emma” scrawled in different cursive scripts. Skin tucked under her arm, muscles bulging, she slides her leg further out, hearing the man whistle in response. Her unoccupied arm stretched out as well, fingers waving, bones swaying. Then all at once, she slips to the front of the stage, bundle in arms, music ducking. The man stands before the foot of the stage. He swallows visibly. You would think that with all that skin, his cowardice would be more well-concealed. She flings the skin out before her like  a bedsheet, and it reaches to the top of his head, falling over his shoulders. Remember: weight of a bag of sugar, leathery and not-quite-dead.
  5. From where the man is standing, inside this tent of skin, he sees the underside with what little light gets through. Here, there are no tattoos, just places where he knows the skin clung desperately to fat and muscle, willing itself to stay attached.
  6. Our subject leaves work early, sky peeling away under a pinhole full moon. An empty canvas bag swings back and forth on her shoulder bone. For now, she isn’t thinking about whether or not she’ll be back at work tomorrow night. On the bottom of her foot, held snugly in pointed boot, the skin has grown a quiet, barely visible layer. It is smooth, light yellow in tone, a near-perfect circle.

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