Animals and Children

By | 1 October 2015

When we divorced I turned infant and my mother waited on me hand and foot. She cooked my meals and made my appointments, at night we slept in the same bed. About my husband––what a soft cock, she said, and nothing more. She was washing the bloodstains from my underwear and stitching all the holes in my clothes with a dramatic red thread, but we did not hold each other, and in bed when her skin would accidentally touch mine her legs would jolt back to her side of the bed. There was no warmth there. One night I felt the bear claw return to my heart and squeeze with as much force as it had when I was with my husband.
          Please, I whispered to my mother.
          Quit it, she said.

It happened like this––one night my father appeared opposite me as I sat in the bubble bath my mother had run. He was old with sunburnt skin, silver hair and green eyes. We stared at each other for a while before I adjusted the bubbles so that they covered my breasts. He asked me what I’d expected and I told him I thought he’d look different, more fatherly. No, no, he said, I mean in your marriage. When he asked if we’d had any pets, any children, I told him I was certain I was allergic.

It was after this that I went to see a skin doctor about a mole on my back. All you have to do is show up, my mother told me. The doctor suggested I dress in a cotton sack with all my underwear off. He was an older man, a little thick around the middle, his black hair receding and a small fat nose. He wore round glasses that were an embarrassing shade of orange. When he returned to the room and found me lying on the paper made bed he clicked his tongue. He asked me to stand in the middle of the room and I stood with my arms outstretched and the afternoon sun coming in from the window and warming my body while he went over every inch of my skin with a magnifying glass, only real slow. He inspected my arms first and then my neck and my breasts. He got down on his knees and went up and down and over my legs, never touching my skin, not once.

He was gliding that magnifying glass all over my body in smooth, precise movements. He was muttering to himself as he went along, something reassuring, something like––yes, good, yes, very good.

And then he did this––he lay on his stomach on the dirty floor, his head arching upwards, and told me to stand on the tips of my toes while he inspected the bottoms of my feet. Still not touching my skin. Not once.

Later, when my psychologist asked me about the significance of this, about how I felt, I told her that all I knew for certain was that I did not want him to stop––I was wishing it would go on for hours.

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