You fall down a cement staircase & your skin drops away. It comes off like a suit. You fold your skin up & carry it home & hang it in the closet. Then you wrap yourself in unfinished quilt tops made up of band tees old lovers once wore. It’s as good a skin as any. For the first few months, you lie on the sofa waiting to heal. Every morning you undress the bandages & smother yourself in antibacterial petroleum jelly. Then you put the quilts back on.
After four months, you have not improved. The quilts aren’t helping anymore, so you resign to being naked & flayed. You’ve started charging entry to the closet where your skin hangs. One lottery ticket buys a glance. Two, & your houseguests can touch it. Three, & you’ll let them try it on. So far this business venture has earned you $112 dollars worth of lottery winnings, plus a modeling job as the hair girl for a shampoo company called Marvelous Locks. Less skin equals less distraction from the hair, the shampoo executives tell you. Your ads do pretty well. They bring in enough money to pay the rent & to get a glass display case for your skin. You even get asked to sign an autograph now & then.
Sometimes at night, when the flashbulbs quiet & paying visitors filter out, you take your skin out of its case & lay it out on the bed beside you. It looks like a damp, pink towel someone forgot by a poolside. How lonely it seems in its hollowness. How quickly you’ve forgotten what it feels like to wear. You stretch out beside your skin, & it feels like visiting an old friend with whom you no longer share anything in common. You talk to it about the morning traffic, about burnt coffee, about tomorrow’s weather—nothing that really matters.
GennaRose Nethercott is a poet, playwright, performer, and folklorist residing in the forests of Vermont. Her recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Rust + Moth, The Salon, Axolotl Magazine, Freeze Ray Poetry, and elsewhere. Her poem “Departures” won the 2014 Holland Park Press poetry competition, and her play-in-verse, Ghostmaker, was produced in Massachusetts and Vermont. She serves as the poetry editor at Mount Island Magazine. She knows more about shape shifters than she does about being a person.
Image credit: Daniel Kulinski on Flickr
Read more from Cleaver Magazine’s Issue #8.