Some people have birthmarks like the outline of a continent, or stretch marks like tube lines with no colour code. I have a scar on my wrist in the shape of an earwig, with a thick ridged body and eight legs from the four stitches that cross it. When I’m cold it’s white and stands out from my skin, when I’m hot it’s pimple pink. When I run my tongue down it, my mouth notes smoothness and strength but the scar tissue of my arm feels nothing. The skin on either side tingles just with the proximity of breath, extra alert on behalf of its dead neighbour. This is my map of the line between feeling too much and feeling nothing at all.
I remember novelty puzzles from my childhood, where rather than a picture on the box that showed what your puzzle pieces would come together to complete, there was a picture of something nearby to the scene of the puzzle – a clue, but not an answer. The bruises and blotches on my skin follow the same logic, they’re a map in reverse, a map of the places I shouldn’t have been recently.
My face is pitted from teenage acne like an apple that was pecked by a bird. The doctor said it wouldn’t have scarred if I’d left it alone, it was the fussing and squeezing that made marks, but I always found it hard to let things stay inside me that I didn’t think belonged. Now, when I smooth a mud mask across my skin it dries to a lighter colour, but stays wet and dark for the longest in the centres of my cheeks, the curves of my nose, the corners of my neck – a map of the places that I could have been prettier.
It never seems to me like the stars are in the same place as the last time I saw them, and I can’t ever find the shapes I’m supposed to outlined in a dot-to-dot. The freckles scattered across your back are my map of the night sky printed in negative. In the mornings when you’re still asleep, your body turned away from me, I search for constellations on your skin.