BY John Birdsong
Amanda said later that I’d been saying things like it for weeks, but I hadn’t. I said only one thing: I wish your skin was softer. And I only said it one time, and she reacted like I’d told her she was a lardass, which I never told her, because I knew she was sensitive about that stuff. She was so angry, she blew up like a big, red balloon. I wanted to bat her around the room, laugh at her. Laughing at her when she’s mad is like taking a cold shower on a hot day.
But I did my thing, you know, eventually apologized and bought her dinner and watched some shitty movie with her, and then she was okay about it all. Or she should have been. People say things they don’t mean all the time. She’s called me a dick before and an asshole, and I don’t get all pissy about it, just get over it, know she’s being a bitch, and move on.
But then her skin actually started to get softer. At first, I thought, you know, she’s using lotion and all that or whatever. But then it got softer and softer, and I didn’t really notice how much at first, the way you don’t notice weight gain at first, until she walked into the door and bumped against the frame and ended up with this massive black and blue bruise. Like I’d beat her or something. And as I’m laughing and saying, “You’re gonna have to tell people you ran into a door, and nobody will believe you, but you did!” She’s looking at her arm where it’s spreading. Like a drop of ink in milk. And then I thought I should take her to the hospital, but she got this perverse smile and just said, “No. Let’s watch a movie tonight. Your pick.”
She said that, so I agreed. It’s hard to disagree with her. She takes it as a personal insult. I kept looking at that black bruise. It seemed almost cancerous. But she kept looking down at it and smiling. So I let her have it. Happy wife, happy life.
And then those things started happening more and more. She’s always been so pale but now she was dotted in black and blue, bruises patterned like a giraffe or something. And finally one day I had to say something, risk it.
“What the fuck is happening to your skin?”
“I’m delicate,” she said with that snakey smile. “You wanted me to be this way, you know.”
And I had to tell her no, no I never wanted this: “You want this. Look at the way you keep smiling at it. Fuck.”
“I didn’t want it,” she said. But she did, and that’s bullshit, because she was smiling at it all the time. And she was acting like I forced it on her. Like I somehow made her this way.
“It’s creepy,” I finally said, then I looked at her for a little while longer. The parts that weren’t bruised did look really milky, soft as baby skin, you know. And I wanted to touch her, but it seemed like I would hurt her. But then I got transfixed on this part of her neck, this little triangle in her clavicle that wasn’t bruised. She noticed me staring and seemed to arch her neck and coo like she was a dove or a swan or something else not human, calling for me.
“You can touch me,” she said, as if I’d asked permission. I walked over to her, and I admit I almost felt like I was in a daze. It was just really beautiful, really sexy, that soft, powdery skin bordered with those continent-sized bruises.
I reached out to touch her. I didn’t want to hurt her, but I still needed to touch her. That triangle on her neck was a gift from her to me.
I touched her neck and a new bruise formed. I carried her to bed like she were a baby. She cried crocodile tears all night, and in the morning she was black and blue and all mine.
John Birdsong is the pen name of Priscilla Wright, a preschool teacher living in Eugene, Oregon. Her personal essay, Season was included in the 2010 book Visions of Joanna Newsom.
Art by featured artist Sirena Hildebrand.
Monsters and Lace was created by Sirena the Mermaid and Chris the Troll. They live in Lancaster, PA, with their many plant children, such as Mary the Mint and Bert the Dracaena. On any given day, you might find them romping through the forest, toting reflectors, camera gear, smoke grenades, and who knows what other props. The aim, is to tell a story via pictures, whether it be a hard road a friend has travelled, or a light hearted children’s tale. To view the world through a lens is a beautiful thing! To capture someone’s soul within a photo is a hard task, but one they aim to master.