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Skin

Robert Villanueva



You start out as it. Yours is wet and wrinkled and mostly deep lines and crevices and soft and sensitive. It craves, with instinct, contact with others; others, with instinct, crave to protect yours.

Yours is coddled and soothed, and every blemish and mark on yours is a legend to a map of your history, your ancestry and all those before you. Yours has the lineage of royalty, of visiting monarchs beguiled by the exotic beauty of house maids in a land of Mayans and Aztecs, of tribal chiefs building cities of gold and of brave warriors spilling blood and life in defense of their secrets. Yours has the musk of sweat from labor in Texan railroad yards and the dust of dry earth from playing in unpaved streets in towns of thatched huts.

Yours is prone to injury, to scratches, to bruises, to careless stumbles and unwary bumps. Yours is nothing to you, insignificant and invisible. Like others around you, yours holds no meaning or justification. Yours might be different from others but only like clothes or shoes. And any notice of yours is unobtrusive and borne of curiosity.

But yours grows, and you hear terms like "shooting up like a weed." And you hear things about how much yours has features that resemble your mother's or your father's or your grandmother's or your grandfather's. And yours gets pinched and caressed and touched, and yours pulls away from these gestures because yours does not crave that contact at these times.

And yours goes to places where there are others who are ignorant of the map yours holds and of the ones theirs hold, too. Occasionally yours prompts observations like "Jap" or "chink," and yours burns with redness but only at the incorrectness, and yours stings for some time but not in ways you understand now.

And soon enough yours is longer and harder, the lines and crevices smoothing out and disappearing altogether. And yours is firm and buzzing with energy and urgency, and yours needs everything at once, the nurturing, the sun, the air, the darkness, the freedom, the boundaries, the contact, the solitude.

And others are noticing yours more openly now, and yours is blemished and marked but not in the way that gives others directions to your history. Yours is too long, too wide, too different. Yours is not smooth enough, not clear enough, not perfect enough. And yours becomes more of a concern for you but only insomuch as you can keep it free of oil, of flaws, of individuality.

Yours becomes you again but in a way that is unfamiliar to you. Yours becomes the object of criticism. Yours is not light enough, not innocuous enough, not similar enough. Yours makes others spout things like "camel jockey" or "spic" or "nigger," and yours becomes harder now in another way.

When yours enters the world after its growing has slowed and the changes are mostly complete, you realize yours has become a cover, and you are the book. Yours garners descriptions like "exotic" and "interesting" and "striking." And yours becomes as much a part of you as it is something that is apart from others, because, almost as often, yours makes you "suspicious" and "mean" and "untrustworthy" and "trouble." And yours feels the breath of whispered animosity and muttered disgust.

Yours has the tone of what others seek in tanning beds, at beaches, at poolside. But yours is not the same as those because yours is always like those. Yours does not fade away with the seasons.

And yours finds another. And the other is happy with something other than yours, something beneath yours, and yours warms with unguarded vulnerability. Yours rediscovers the need for contact and nurturing and soothing. Yours is like everyone else's in those moments. And yours wants more of yours, to add to the map, the guide through Mexican deserts and Texan dust bowls. And yours will have the vitality of crowds chattering at a Parisian street cafe or the fortitude of soldiers on a Monsian battlefield.

And yours becomes protective, a source of soothing, of coddling. Yours does the pinching, the caressing, the touching.

And yours reveals the scars, the marks and the veins more readily. Yours loses some of its elasticity and some of its moisture.

Yours fends off lumps and blotches, susceptible nonetheless to disease, bacteria and illness. But yours is not as resilient as it used to be. Yours gives way to cramps and strains and soreness. And yours is the same as all others in this respect.

Yours is prone to injury, to scratches, to bruises, to careless stumbles and unwary bumps. Yours has become an ever-visible source of worry for you, a significant possession to guard, to keep healthy. Like others around you, yours holds meaning and justification. Yours holds a generation of events and stories, like a coded message in the malleable folds and spongy creases.

Yours becomes weary. Yours is coddled and soothed. It craves, with instinct, contact with others; others, with instinct, crave to protect yours.

Yours is wrinkled and mostly deep lines and crevices and soft and sensitive, and the blemishes and marks once again become a map of your history, and one day the history reaches the end of a chapter and yours gives way.

And soon others who say that you "look like you're sleeping" or that you look "peaceful" are viewing yours. And yours cannot burn with the incorrectness anymore. Yours cannot warm with vulnerability. Yours is no longer you.

Yours is degenerating. Yours is changing. Yours is flaking off, layer by layer.

Yours cannot crave contact. Yours cannot feel scratches or bruises or stumbles or bumps.

Yours is nothing to anybody, insignificant and invisible, replaced by a marker that represents yours. Yours can no longer prompt observations like "Jap," or "chink" or "spic" or "nigger," and no one is concerned about how long or wide or perfect yours is.

And yours disappears over time, like your neighbor's. And the earth coddles and embraces all of yours the same way, and yours is no less than theirs, no more.

And yours is in the grass, the flowers, the trees, the weeds. And yours is in the dandelion whose seed takes purchase and grows in a lawn where a child with a smoothing map of Aztec villages or Texan huts carelessly stumbles upon it, picks it up and blows it away, without thought, floating it up above the world of theirs, higher and higher, like a whispered prayer.

THE END



Robert Villanueva was born in Alaska but has lived most of his life in Kentucky. After graduating from Western Kentucky University with a BA in journalism, Villanueva worked as both editor and staff writer at various local newspapers. He left the full-time journalism profession in 1993 to pursue a career in fiction writing. Villanueva's short stories and poems have been published by The Heartland Review, The Louisville Eccentric Observer, Snitch, Bluemountain.com, Writer's Digest Magazine and Scavenger's Newsletter. He is currently working on a novel and a collection of short stories.

Contact Robert at: Rvsshine1@aol.com

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