Second Skin
Tatiana M.R. Johnson

It was not as if I completely loved my body. It was inevitable to let others do it for me. The first one kneading his knuckles into my stubborn skin his voice sighing: don’t change a thing about yourself, don’t let anyone tell you to change. I didn’t. That was supposed to be a song to calm my insides about the ugly of my outsides but it is mostly a racket still ringing. I wonder how he did not want me to change when my chest is heaving and churning air into something else on its journey from my lungs. Aren’t we all a bit different when that happens? When the happening is someone doing the loving of yourself, for yourself and it does not feel as destructive as it actually is­­ like as trivial as you told yourself it felt when that eighth-­grade boy grabbed your breast in the cafeteria and when he laughed, you laughed like a cracking of bones. You wonder why your mind does not register the pillages against your skin with greater damage. How the damage showed itself one New Year’s Eve. Your drunken body yet again in the palm of someone else’s hand while every part of yourself tried to sleep and wish away the touching and playing that was supposed to be someone loving this body. Someone telling me with hands not to change. To stay quiet, accepting even. Isn’t it really just a slaying in disguise? A backhanded love poem asking you to sit still while sickled hands destroy you. You are breaking and have been breaking and there’s a silence ripping your skin awake. It was not as if I loved myself, anyway­­ it’s not as if that task is difficult. As if the loving of yourself is not an act of seeing a history of handprints from everyone else covering your body­­ so much that it has become a second skin. As if this loving isn’t really watching your own wreckage with acceptance. Picking at the pieces. Hoping you are safe.


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