My Brightest Diamond, "High Low Middle" by asthmatickitty
Working late at night, cooped up in the second bedroom of my apartment hunched over my computer, thinking what an archaic term "computer" was, I dreamed of being outside in the sunshine. The next day I had to work as well, but on actually work stuff, not the really important work. It was dark all day anyway, also snowing thick and sticky. I still went out, had to get out and get my blood moving again. The problem with living by yourself for a long time is it gets easier and easier to slip into the deep murky vapors of your own head. What used to take months to induce a state of desperate boredom now happens in days. I need to see my thoughts reflected off of other people. So whatever, the fucking point is I really really really wanted to be outside during the day, even if it was the dead dog end of January.
So I made plans with two people I didn't know very well but have wanted to get to know better, which is the most entertaining way to do brunch, I like that in-between stage. Where you know each well enough to be pretty comfortable, but there's still an element of mild surprise sometimes. I was feeling pretty good, dehydrated and sleepwalking as I was, because it turns out that Saturday's desperate drinking had worked. I felt the emotional poison draining out of me the minute I stepped outside on my porch to meet them. It's important when you feel a bubble of hate and bitterness swelling inside you to lance it, drain out the black fluid, before it gets established enough to grow a shell. The blackness was clear though, gone, and it was wonderful outside, to feel the sunny winter air and smell the snow. This whole weekend the weather was swinging back and forth, making out with itself in between styrofoam snow, horrible knife cold rain, and beautiful blue sunny skies with crispy cold 60 mph winds. The weather was proud of itself. I was pretty proud of it too.
We were leaving the diner, and the coffee was starting to enter my veins like a slow drip, when the temperature suddenly dropped. The shock of it was sharp, and my skin jumped, detached all at one in a piece, and ran away.
It looked like a ghost, sort of there but with no substance, as it disappeared down the street. The sun in front of it (her?) shown through like I used to hold a pen light against the bottom of my thumb to see the nails light up.
If you think you get nervous hanging out with new people when wrapped up in nice warm skin, try entirely universally naked. I still had my dress on of course, only wicked girls let their clothes get away from them. But it's not attractive to see the arteries and muscles in your forearms either, or and especially the large beating one on your neck just underneath your ear. It certainly doesn't help with convincing new people you're not a weirdo. Plus now I was super cold. The small hard pellets of snow were falling faster now, and the wind stung every inch of me. I felt more exposed than I had ever been before, save that one weekend.
We tracked my runaway skin, easy enough since it had no real muscle and there were little drops of residual blood left on the snow, though no actual footprints so we had to look closely and squint as the afternoon light dimmed and disappeared in the whitening sky. It led us through the closed up storefronts and bare tree boulevards, till finally the trail brought us to a low dark building.
The boys helped pry open the door, which my skin had thoughtfully stuck shut with a large metal shred under the bottom. It's my skin after all, it understands tricks. I stood there as they fought with the door, shivering so hard I expected at any moment to vibrate at exactly the wrong sequence, causing me to fall out of the universe completely. When they got it open, I jumped right inside just to get out of the wind. It took my eyes a minute to adjust to the darkness. One of the boys closed the doors against the storm, and there we were.
The floor was covered with rotting ceiling wood and melted carpet mold.
We stumbled through the dark hallways, sunshine spilling from the holes in the roof, falling on the floor in concentrated spots. A pile of cinderblocks in the corner. Monitors disintegrating on wet wooden desks. So many things run away. And at the end of the longest hallway, in a cavernous rotunda with the sunshine coming through the peaked broken roof glass in a bright circle at the middle of the room. It felt like church. And there was my skin. It was paler than I remembered it, and obviously tired. It looked at us in panic, and I saw the rest of the objects sitting all around us. All the things left behind in the winters - gloves and spare times, sidewalk rubble and shopping carts. They surrounded us menacingly, defensive, attacking. I moved closer, and gave a quick call. My skin ran over just as fast, and hopped right back on me. We stood there a moment, the two of us, feeling the elation at being connected again.
The boys and I left immediately. I could feel the calculators and bath towels, the running shoes and air conditioners pressing in the darkness against our retreat.
If I am in the backseat of a car, I cannot stop looking at my self in the rearview mirror. It's terrible but true, and oh so much more true this particular ride home, as I stared at the color of my eyes, and the tone of my cheeks, and ran my fingers over my ears over and over again, to seal it up again tight.