By Gregory J. M. Kasunich
Remember when I lived inside your skin? Two winters ago, when the sky looked just as it does today. Grey and silver and ready to break open and dust the chattering people below. I remember. You said it was cramped and that I should have sub-let someone else, but you were willing to offer the place if that was ok. There was a little friction to begin. You said I nagged. I didn’t nag, I reminded. There is a distinct difference. You should know, being a professor of words and sentences and commas and apostrophes. You know them by heart, I before E except after C. You played favorites, you told me so, and when I was wrapped up inside you I could see them, sliding behind your eyes and laughing at me, I didn’t always like your favorites. They were kinda mean and didn’t wipe their feet and spent way too much time with you, time I should have had. The double O, you loved them, the way “tion” sounded like “shun”, E and U and sometimes Y. No matter, I was the one wearing your skin.
Remember how I would comb your hair? Slick, slick, slick. We didn’t leave until it was dry, didn’t want to get sick, catch a cold, and have our nose run. Not too much gel either. Sometimes it would get crispy and when your uncle George would rub your head and tell you what a handsome young lad you were, an avalanche of gel flakes would fly up in a fluster and make everyone at the Christmas party frown. You were handsome then, in the cold of the winter, dodging wind gusts, your cheeks painted rose like a porcelain doll, your hair delightfully blown out of place like a movie star.
Remember when you bought that wool coat? The one I said made you look like a sissy, better suited for a bag lady? We had to wear it everywhere. I hated that thing. It was itchy, and I think I might have been allergic to it. All the girls loved it, they wanted to touch it, and they wanted to touch you, which meant that they had to touch me. I never wanted to be touched by those girls. So many touches I didn’t want. But you smiled and they melted and I saw them dance behind your eyelids for hours after they left. You know, I had to entertain them for you. It was nice to get some girl talk in but… sometimes I would make tea and biscuits and they never said thank you. Then they would ask for cosmopolitans and olives. But I had already made tea and biscuits and I was not going to drag us to the store again. So they would frown with disapproval and whoever was living in their skin undoubtedly saw you dancing behind their eyes while they giggled and ate and let the tea go cold.
Remember when all I wanted to do was sleep? Remember when all I wanted to do was dream? Remember when I could do neither? The doctors called it insomnia; I called it love. I know it was clearly stated in the lease, no inter-body romances, but how could we have expected anything less? Living is such close quarters, learning each other’s habits and favorites, and feelings, and political opinions, and each other’s smell, and taste, and touch. That winter, the snow barricaded the doors and the windows and only milky white light leaked though the windows. It was the closest to heaven I had ever been. We held hot chocolate in out hands, steamy ghosts rising from our ceramic mugs and teasing our nostrils with sweetness. We burnt our tongues and laughed and the fire licked orange and red light across your face. The ginger bread, the games of scrabble you would let me win, the moment when we knew that even though I had lived inside you for weeks we had never really touched the way we wanted to touch each other. Amongst the fire and the white and the chocolaty aphrodisiac running in our veins we finally touched.
Remember when you kissed me? You had to look into the mirror to do it, and I smiled and kissed you back and sometimes I would get so lost in the moment that I would close my eyes and float and float and float until I could float no higher, as if there was a ceiling made of cotton candy and I didn’t want to break though. I just wanted to lay in the warm sugary nothing and think about where we would go next. And when we had been up all day molding minds and ruining futures we would fall asleep to the words of Poe, or Yeats, or Plath, and wonder why we were never as good as them and if we would always be stuck in that damned high school. Sometimes I would see your thoughts. I know you told me not to look, but sometimes I had to. If I were a cat I’d be dead. Sometimes you wondered if I would stay forever. Sometimes that made you happy, and then sometimes it would make you sad or scared or confused and that’s when I learned never to look in your thought-box again. Like Eve I was shaken awake and the ceiling of candy was now just plaster.
Remember when the first scent of sprint drifted amongst the falling flakes and brought with it a sense of new? The snow had ceased to stick and patches of green and brown broke through the white and made the ground like Swiss cheese. The birds could be heard but not seen and we wondered if they came home from vacation a bit too early. The yards were fields of dying snowmen sinking and sagging into the mud, their eyes and ears and noses and mouths in pieces around them. We drove past the schoolyard and watched the anorexic snow-people waste away. We sat on the swings and I got nauseous but you kept swinging and when there was a time when we would have laughed in spite of ourselves at our own simplicity and childishness, now there was nothing but angered and hurried faces. And more and more your favorites took up time behind your eyes and more and more I was not one of them. I needed to look into your thoughts, but was too afraid to know.
Remember when you told me my lease was up and I asked if I could renew it, nothing but a strong silence sprung from your mouth? Silence. Silence. Silence. And in that silence you said more than a thousand years of verbalization. And you took the job in Georgia where it never snows, where you might never have to host another lonely tenanted. You told me your body wasn’t nearly big enough for one, that your heart could only handle so much, and together we stretched and bent it all out of shape. You said you knew I looked, looked into the place I told you I wouldn’t and despite it all, you said, you didn’t evict me. So that spring I tried by best to repaint the walls a sterile white, but I could never get them as brilliants as they once were. I packed up my things in big brown boxes that we got for free from the hardware store. And that spring I moved out. And although I have that feeling, deep inside, right down there in my stomach, that perhaps I had forgotten something, left something behind, it’s ok, because I know when I left I took a little something of yours with me.