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SKIN BOOK by Dan Holloway

© Dan Holloway

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CONTENT WARNING.
This is a short story designed primarily to be read aloud rather than off the page. The fantatic cover art is copyright (2009) Sarah E Melville.

Tonight I felt your eyes

on my skin

like they’re wet lips sucking the sweat off me. I sat at the bar with a mojito, thinking it’s winter and there’s still the hot nylon scratch of cheap clothing

on my skin.

I felt the drink go sour in my throat; I pissed it down the shitpan, and scrubbed away the stench but the soap smelled worse

on my skin

so I stuffed garlic butter chicken down my throat that fucked with the mojito in my belly and squeezed out rancid pustules that sat like oily islands

on my skin

and walked out, pushing my shoe against the crease of your trouser leg as I passed you at the table by the door. I sat in the car and replayed the sound of the cloth and thought the mucus in my mother’s gut was the last time I felt another person

on my skin

and I saw Jon leaning still against the sideboard, and the lilt of his words, the gentle patter, the casual way he told me what he wanted, and how cold the metal, and how hot the liquid, and how the mucus in my mother’s gut was the last time I felt another living person

on my skin.

Driving home I wondered, is it wrong to want your snot-piss-shit-come-vomit

on my skin?

The cotton sheets stroke, suck, soothe and I lie down and count, 32 years, 32 marks in the front of my SKIN BOOK, and maybe when I’m 80, a life and a half from now, maybe when I’m 80 I’ll lose my mind and take off the sweat-fuck plastic scratch pants and see what it’s like to have the sun

on my skin

but now I’d like to take your snot-piss-shit-come-vomit, filtered through the nylon mesh, and spread it

on my skin

and tell my SKIN BOOK how you feel.

*

You said

“When I was a child I prayed to God for cancer every night, for the doctor to tell my parents ‘your son’s dying’ and them to notice they had a son. But I turned 18 and I’d never even had the flu so God and I went our separate ways.”

I said

“How does it feel to be invisible? I bet the freedom makes you kinda drunk.”

And you said

“Sometimes I ride the subway all day and no one sees me; I’ll walk the carriage and see a pair of tits and hang them in the tit gallery in my head. I look through the cloth and between the buttons and where the edge of the fabric comes loose from the skin and I trace the curve of the tits, and the pert, plump fullness of the tits and the sleek pointed skin tapering the tits to the nipples; and I go home and walk all night through the rooms of my tit gallery and I come and the voice says come on my tits and fingers touch and we come together in the tit gallery in my head.”

And I said

“Do YOU ever touch?”

You said

“I’m not some kind of fucking pervert”

And I said

“You’re exactly some kind of fucking pervert”

And you said

“So why do you hang out with me?”

I said

“You’re my fuck crush”

And you said

“I don’t wanna fuck”

And I said

“I can’t fuck”

And spent the night taking pictures on my cell phone and the day pasting them into my SKIN BOOK.

*

I was

12

and he said I want to touch, just once, that’s all, my skin on yours, and I said I don’t want you to touch and he said I want to touch and I said you’re not listening. He said I want to touch there and I want to touch there where the skin feels different, and carry the memory on my fingers and put it where my skin feels different and I said I don’t want you to touch.

12

times the eyelids opened in my head and bile and lust and fear pushed the eyelids open on my face and sent me to my desk to open my SKIN BOOK and make the choice: I will not die today. I will not die before this page is full. I’m 37 and there are

12

Full pages in my SKIN BOOK. I carry their memory in my fingers, and I put my fingers on my skin and touch and it feels different from my SKIN BOOK. I think how he felt, and how he feels, and close my eyes and stop my ears and know the difference between them is the breath and the heartbeat and the stench of pheromone that makes one of them alive. It’s

12

O’clock and I open my eyes and think, I will not die today.

I was

12

when he said fuck me and I said yes fuck you, and wrote on the first page of my SKIN BOOK, tomorrow I’ll be

13.

*

I open the page and the chat bar’s

blank.

The greyed-out dot fuzzes in my greyed-out head. Are you there? I type and my finger hovers over send. The pressure of the splinter on my shin, the sour blood, the throb throb pulse remind me not to ask. Are you there? Tracing, tracking, trapping her in your head, pinning and pressing her for later. Her

blank

eyes fail to notice yours spreading her shirt. Her dumb passive fuck-yeah-that’s-right-there-harder-harder-yes skin hangs from her body, sits, limp, waits for another morning and another till the last, and sweaty stenching takes the toecaps and the fists, the fingers, come and piss, the eyes, the tongues, the whispers, the leering, beer and bliss, the

blank

stare of a stranger at the table by the door. Are you there? I know the sound exactly, its pitch its timbre, its tone. I know the sound rubber, scuffed and broken, the gravel stuck between two treads, the click-clank-echo of your shoes in each room of the tit gallery in your head. I know the height, the depth, the doorways, the spacing of each portrait, each length of pace, each length of stare. I know the moment your skin slips on your skin, slides, pummels, fights, rips and sighs, the angle of your head as you turn to go, fixing on the

blank

spaces between each portrait. You suck the skin from my flesh as you leave, to cloak you in the ice-stab-sting of your mind. Are you there? My slashed leg screams and I drive my knuckles on the broken wood, slam, slam slam, till they scream back and slam the keys and the letters scab the screen one by one through the pain, and fibres peeling, pus sluicing, bone fighting wood fighting bone, letters sicked up from the scream, and my finger presses down and the screen goes

blank.

*

My whole body’s cold on the cotton save the 6 inch towelling band binding the gash in my leg. I pull my SKIN BOOK close, press my fingers on the warm blank page, let it breathe into me, and write, Imagine a house with

2

people.

2

faces lit through one window

2

cups with coffee the same luke warm

2

sets of fingerprints on the handle of the bedroom door

2

fobs of identical keys

2

skins losing heat in every room

2

greasy plates left on the sideboard overnight

2

sets of footprints in January snow

2

voices breaking the stillness

2

mouths breathing the first cigarette smoke of the day

2

pairs of eyes exploring the darkness in the night

2

knives on the table

2

razor blades on the bathroom sink

2

pairs of hands

2

sighs

2

screams

2

cuts

2

bloods

2

screams

2

hands

2

hands

2

touch-scabs

2.

I close my SKIN BOOK and the pages fall back open. My SKIN BOOK breathes through my fingers, through my sourblood to my head, whispers a membrane-throb, a house with

2

people.

*

Are you there? The chat bar pings and I

echo

I’m here. I was there you say. I

echo

so was I. You were at the bar you say. Your black skirt scratched your thighs. The nylon made your skin hot and through your top I followed the sweat-carved valleys in the fine hair on the small of your back. I say I felt your eyes. You see but never touch. You see across the room, through clothes, I wonder if you see through skin. You

echo

yeah, I see. I see the ice withdrawn, the skin left warm, almost alive, I see the nothing inside. I say you can talk and you

echo

yeah, I can talk. I say have you always been like this and you say like what and I say like this semi-human night-vision hunter and you say oh like that and I

echo

yeah, like that, and you say I guess, have you? And I say yeah. Always. I say I had a twin. I had a twin you

echo

I say he died and you

echo

yeah, she died. I say I have to go and you say so do I, and the screen goes black and I open my SKIN BOOK and I write I had a twin, he died, and my fingers feel the

echo

*

We met in a forum. Some trashbitch squealed I like to

feel

it ram hard, long, fist sharp thick, ah, and some chintz-dress slut-fuck sighed no I like to

feel

Hands on the pores of my skin like summer sky meadows, breeze on my breasts, soft, ah, slide, gliding hands. I said how does it

feel?

and trashbitch said like fuckin’ A and chintz-slut said like heaven and I said no I don’t mean that and you said I don’t know. I said to be touched, to

feel

another person’s skin on yours and you said I don’t know. I said not ever and you said once. There was one once and it was warm and tight like plastic stretched and pushed against my fingers and it pressed and squirmed and forced the blood back from my skin, stuffed it up my throat, and blood and bile and sweat-piss-come and I could

feel

myself empty and it was flat flaccid cold and I couldn’t

feel

the tits on my fingers. Trashbitch said I

feel

like I’m gonna retch and chintz-slut said I

feel

your pain and I said I want to

feel

you on my skin and you said you never will and I said I know I never will and ran my fingers on my SKIN BOOK and thought would it

feel

different if my SKIN BOOK was alive?

*

You stand in the porch with a bag on your shoulder and I say come in and you do. I say follow me upstairs and you do. You follow me down the darkness, through the doors, and sit on the cold cotton untouched sheets. I sit and say your voice sounds how I thought it would and you say so does yours, and I say look, and you say at what and you hold your eyes level with mine and make yourself not look, and I reach beneath the pillow and pull out my

SKIN BOOK

And you say, show me and I take your sleeve and place your hand on my

SKIN BOOK

And say I want you to touch there. Your eyes close and I say look and you say I’m looking and through the cloth I place your hand on the photographs in my

SKIN BOOK

And say look and your eyes are closed and I feel your footsteps in the sweep-vault hallways of the tit gallery in my head and your gaze scrapes the inside of my skull. Your eyes stay closed and I close mine too and there’s something in my hand, skin cold on the cold skin of my fingers and I say what’s that and you say it’s my

SKIN BOOK

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