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Her body gave her ulcers and rashes of many varieties, and pimples to recall the unshakeable embarrassments of adolescence. Her body produced this abundance in protest, she supposed.

Skin is an organ, its specialized function to protect, screen, and contain. This last, her problem. Hadn't she contained over-well? "She's an exemplar of self-containment," written on a grade-school report card. "Self-possessed," "self-reliant," "self-restrained." No one wrote "self-flagillating." How many knew? Did anyone notice?

As she got older, men wrote their indelible report cards: "withheld," "withdrawn," "without." Withstood.

She didn't want it this way, the least because her skin was a map others could read, if they chose. Few bothered to read anything but there were a couple, like Tim, who attempted to translate what was being expressed. Tim had a way of just looking at her and saying, "Uh-oh, my baby needs to be fed," and he was always right. He unerringly knew she was hungry before she herself knew. He said her skin would turn sallow and her eye sockets grow more shadowy than usual. Tim thought self-denial was the problem and that food was the answer, and he even convinced her of this for several years. Yet her skin continued to protest, and she learned that Tim only complicated what her skin was trying to express. She shed him.

Her skin continued to fight her and, chiefly, she minded that she herself couldn't understand or solve the problem.

It was no help, either, to study people with beautiful skin. Look at Betty: skin so pure it was almost translucent; and Betty was an emotional mess, a thick, lumpy gruel of fears and resentments. Her skin was like a mask. Or a membrane over a drum, drawn too taut, so the range of sounds expressed was narrow and repetitive. No, flawless skin wasn't an answer. The answer, if there was one, lay with honesty. If it wasn't too late. 

Hemingway in New Orleans


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Saturday, 10 June 2023

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