Thursday
Jun062013

The Skin Team

By Jordaan Mason


Magic Helicopter Press
June 2013
 978-0984140640


 

I had a vision of her giving birth to the horse. I was standing in the stables and she was shaking, violently, as if to remove her skin in slices. Her water broke into the hay, glistening, then. And the dead horse came out of her. He was holding her arms and telling her to breathe. She was screaming: My mother's dress is ruined. Between two horses.

I dug my hands underneath my t-shirt and felt at the three long scars going vertical on the right side of my stomach. The horse, dehydrated and shriveled, moved its hind legs in the dirt like it was trying to get up, limply. He pulled her arms back so she couldn't touch it; she shook harder, trying to escape him, trying to hold the horse. It looked up at him and then back towards me, and said: It was him.

I held the horse's head against the knives on my stomach. There, it tried to suck blood out of me as if milk, but the wounds had already healed over, and nothing came out of me. He put his tongue in her ear and she started singing very quietly: The room just filled up with mosquitoes they heard that my body was free.

What was left of the treehouse was also burned with the Power Company Building, because that's where we left it, except a few of the lamps, which I had kept in the attic, and which were infected now. Daisies tried to grow out of them from where the wires ended. I asked them both if they had kept any of the lamps for themselves, and they both in unison lifted their clothes to show me three tally mark scars on the right sides of their stomachs.

We put the horse back in her for the night. We all moved in and out of stables, stability, horses. She was bursting with more of them for days, we couldn't stop them, couldn't kill them fast enough. All of them drained of water, all of them dead. Yearning for milk we did not have. And they came out of her, of him, me, each other, full of bullets, full of bleach, covering the floors of the barn, trying to walk out into the wilderness alone looking for mothers impossibly in the arced shapes of trees, crop circles, lakes, ash.

 

Unresolved: I woke up with certain amounts of fluid in my mouth that came from nowhere, that came from something during sleep. As in: I was pulling something directly from another source into me, which I then swallowed and heaved the next morning. As in: where did it come from, how am I sharing it, how is it being transferred to me. I knew that I had metal in me because there were constant alarms and warnings of this. My mouth was always filled with silver saliva, my whole head caving. The metal in my stomach stung like I had swallowed all of the bees I could find and let them have the honey and peanut butter sandwiches sitting inside me, too. I asked them if they would remove the metal, but this was impossible for them to grasp. I woke up in remote parts of town with no shoes on, my feet covered in my own blood from bad road work, from walking hours lingering unconscious. I said to the doctor, I told her: I looked into North like he told me to and that's what's doing it, but why these gifts, why now. She said: Has anyone noticed you doing this, you know, this walking off while you're sleeping. I said: No one else has said so except North, which is trying to get me to follow it. Is north a codename for one of your friends, she asked, and I shot her a glance so hard I almost knocked myself over.

 

A holy moment happened between us in one of the public restrooms at the park. He had just come back from the woods, sticks still in his hair, scrapes on his legs, and said he had them in him, as many as possible for all hours of the night, but he couldn't feel it anymore. He could no longer be hunted was how he put it. He said: The only thing I can feel anymore is the energy, and you, and Sarah. He admitted to me what had happened between them. He whispered: We were almost one, if we hadn't kept so many secrets, it would have been possible. I asked him about the fire. I wanted to know why he had done it. And, leaning against the wall enclosure of the bathroom stall, he told me: I thought maybe I could cure us all, I really thought I could do it, you have to believe me.

The three of us stood in the middle of the generators. We spoke volumes without words. We told each other all of our secrets with the only language that we knew: the energy, the sickness, the sleeplessness, the slipping away of identities, our individual selves. I asked her about blind spots, if she had them. Could she see everything or were there parts, just small spaces of things, missing, lost in between transitions from one organism to another. I could see the dresses she had discarded all over the floor, yes. And her belly, full of blizzards, scorching against my legs and inner thighs, and the piercing sound of an entire flock of birds trying to enter me through the ears. Her mother's dresses were levitating above the other ones somehow. The pockets of his pants were overflowing with extra lightbulbs. Yes, I see everything, she said, looking at the two of us, trying to figure out whose pair of what was whose, all of our clothes tangled on the same floor, of the same house, with the lights off and no one wishing they would be on, our eyes adjusting to the darkness, barely, all things around us coming apart. Parts of his t-shirts becoming her legs, my jeans his skull, her dresses my forearms. And sometimes I was him and she was me, and the three of us were in the bedroom, which was flooded, and the three of us were in the attic, which was burned, and the three of us were filling up the houses with lights left on while everyone fell asleep watching television.

 

She took me night fishing on her father's boat without his permission. It was dangerous because the boat didn't have any lights on it. From where we were out on the lake, we could see just tiny dots of light in the distance, and the moon and stars above. Like someone cut holes in my head to see them. Fortunately, she didn't know any constellations or where the North Star was, so she couldn't point them out to me. Instead, we invented our own. One of them was the Power Company Building. Another was the river. Another was the three of us as fish, scattered among other space debris. She tied our feet to the boat and said: If there's a storm we'll both go down together.

We threw the fish that we caught back. It was easier at night because we didn't have to see their faces. There was just the sensation of their wet skin on our hands, flipping around everywhere in the boat, splashing water.

Hundreds of living organisms were beneath us, all living in the darkness, all blind most of the time, feeling out their food with smell. The two of us were blind fish also. The three of us were caught fish released back into the ocean. He was fucking whales in the woods.

I was seasick once we got back to the shore. I blacked out. I woke up and they were both on one of the mattresses next to me, her with most of what he carried between his legs in her mouth, him biting down hard on a stick to keep quiet. I kept quiet, too. I located my own body attached to me and looked back up at the stars, interrupted by the branches of trees. One of them was the North Star. One of them was all of the fish we threw back into the lake. All of the stars were looking for me as if I could be found.

Each of us was a constellation of dead fish. Each of us was stuck in the sky, which was really just water. He was all of the suns that made the plants which fed us grow. I collected my belongings from inside of her stomach. She had stolen them, over the years, without my knowing. Some of these belongings were the words I'd been trying to say. Others were the ones I was able to conjure. The rest of my language was somewhere between the Power Company Building and North.

She was sharks tattooing the two of us slowly. I absently joined the two of them on the mattress, knowing very well that nothing more could be made from our meat. All of our fluid had been spoiled, anyway.

 

I went to the Power Company Building again after they had started to rebuild it. Even though it had been a while since the fire. The trees had barely grown back. I lay between the two main generators, except now it didn't seem to do anything. I adjusted several times, trying variations of the position and location I used to know well, but the stomach ache wouldn't go away.

My stomach was full of hard metal and fire. I held the lightbulb gift between my teeth and waited, but it didn't charge up. I thought maybe that the lightbulb had just been burnt out, so I went home and hid in the attic with one of the lamps from the old treehouse. I put the lightbulb into the socket. It lit up. I covered all of the windows in the attic so that no one would know what I was doing. I waited for the light to burn out but gave up after thirty-seven hours when my mother called me for dinner.

Sarah knew well enough to know what I had been doing. She asked me if I had been eating lightbulbs. I accused her of eating the horses. He held the ladder that both of us were on, and we handed the lamp from one to the other, back up and down from the house to the attic.

I wasn't hungry for anything. The doctor asked me if I was sleeping better with the pills she'd been giving me. I said I couldn't remember.

All three of us built a house that we lived in. All three of us at the same time. It was made mostly out of the things that both him and her had saved, documented, of us. When my voice came out of me, it was hers and his was mine. Hers was his. This exchange happened for a while. None of what came out of us was words, just voices. Just singing. No songs.

There were no lamps in our new house. We wanted to keep the lights off. In the dark, it was easier not to know anything. To have to look one another in the eye would have been impossible.

We found him there again, near the broken bricks, with his head wide open. His skull was full of insects and breadcrumbs. Sarah was oscillating between charred rocks where we had left pieces of our knee scrapings, our kites that flew away. I put the lightbulb into his open skull. I waited for it to light up. I waited for the trees to bend down to the ground and scrape away the grass from the lawns. None of this happened. When I realized this, I collapsed. I didn't throw up, even though my stomach felt like I had swallowed rocks. And the insects crawled between her arms and mine, the grass fell lower, all of the electricity scathing across the water. He handed me the blood from his head and said nothing. Down to the lake we went, again.

 

A subject in a room for a portrait by the nude wall with extra skin around the body, tight. I imagined that Sarah had batteries in her spit, and when I pulled them out, they were warm again like I knew they were inside of her, and I arranged them with the eggs and bacon. Pull them three by three, recharge them. Catching her in the shower singing, I put the batteries between my toes, with the wrong muscles, all of them scattering from me, like insects to the walls.

She masturbates to 1995 electronic dance music. He has gasoline ready for college down. I am changing the bedsheets to make the room colder.

I hold the glass of milk in my bare paws, trying very hard not to spill it, not to get it on the rugs. Calcium this and calcium that, my bones were still breaking, I can't stand up.

I keep the lights off when I enter her and then I cannot tell the difference. Between him and her. The distance between two subjects posing by the nude wall, symmetrical, leaves me. And this is only a violence to myself, and it does not matter. The batteries rolled left on the floor because of the slant and stuck there. Both of the firepits are lit, all of the snow in the kitchen sink is molasses, all of the liquor in the basement is linen. She hides the saxophone in the closet behind the ladder to the attic. I am sitting at the top of the house imagining what the bottom would look like if I reversed it. He is panting ice cream drool onto my knuckles as I rub his bones clean of any harm. I tell him: I am sick, can you see it, and the doctor doesn't know what I should do. He gives me an Oxford Dictionary and tells me to look up the word: North. The definition said that the three of us were sleeping in the same room even though we had our own, that we all shared the same refrigerator, we were all out of milk. I looked for it between rooms.

She says: If I am positive of what is in my lungs, can I give it to you. I say: I want it anyway, you don't have to ask. He holds her head up from the garden and says: These weeds, why do you keep the weeds. We swim in the pool even though it is drained.

We change the lightbulbs at night to get rid of gathering moths, leaving dust on the light, clouding it. The basement is filled with telephone wires, and all of the milk is stale in our mouths. Two subjects in a room are trying to be solid. When I look in the bedroom, they are putting their bodies back together, and I am putting my own into books. They ask me if I can go out for more milk, and I say: Dad will do it.

A subject in a room is me pushing myself against the wall and waiting for the wall to allow me to be inside of it, to accept that I have never been one solid. They put their bodies back together, and I put my body back into the books. I recite them aloud while they enter me, then, in response.

Three subjects in one room are too many to fit into one room. And three is not symmetry? Three subjects in three rooms doing all separate acts from one another's subjectivity. The violence between him and her and I. The volumes between him and her and I as identities, shouting all through the house. From the top of it, I look down and see her saxophone, her singing.

He is carrying all our clothes down into the laundry room to clean them. There are welts and open places in his head, walking. She is filling his head with the liquor, the linen. And trying to get inside of the refrigerator to make his skin colder, to freeze it into ice, but he leaves and turns the stove on, putting his empty head onto the burner.

I pull the mask off my face in the backyard and bang my head against the bottom of the pool until the milk comes back out of my stomach, all white and thick chunks of it coming out of me. I imagine that it was once warm inside of me and arrange it with the eggs and bacon, throw out the old cartons, fill up the house with sand.