Fiction / August 2009 (Issue 8)

The Skin is the Enemy

by Nikesh Murali

She waited for him, scratching her arms, at dusk.

She had never had a man. No man would make love to her while her skin peeled away and floated in the air like parachutes over Normandy.

This one was different. He was keen.

She was honest on the dating site: Have skin disorder. Am lonely. Need company.

He had responded: I am lonely too. Everyone shuns me.

She woke up early that day and sat scratching on the bed for half an hour before heading off to the kitchen for breakfast.

While washing dishes, she caught a sympathetic smile from the lady next door who was pruning her roses.

"How pretty they look without their unwanted bits," she shouted over the fence.

She listened to old vinyl records, and for a few hours Mozart replaced the sound of nails scraping against her inflamed dermis.

She cleaned her wounds and watched a game show at midday, the one where the host never failed to shout, "Have we got a winner or what?" every time he picked a busty blonde from the audience.

She had pumpkin quiche for lunch and spent more time playing with the pastry than actually eating it. They always looked unappetizing once the top layer was removed.

She bathed in a tub filled with special minerals and once she had dried off, she smeared herself with gel to calm her skin. She put on a see-through cotton skirt and shirt, and checked her figure in the mirror. She powdered her tomato red skin and wore non-allergenic lipstick made from vegetable extracts. And finally, she said a little prayer to the silence in the house.

She waited for him at the doorstep in the approaching night.

Just as the title music from a fifteen-year-old soap opera came on the television sets in the neighbourhood, a tall figure holding a bouquet opened the gate and stepped into the yard.

She stopped breathing and listened to the beating of her heart.

He hesitated and shifted the flowers to his other hand.

She heard him scratching, and she smiled.

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