Not the Rug She Wanted
A secret: I sleep without covering, naked, skinless, not even a blanket. I like seeing my heart pump in the starlight, silver body coiled on the bed. No itchy tags, no sweaty skin, only the softest sheets. When the phone rings late at night, I glide like a viper from the bed to the wall, entwine myself with the coil of the phone cord.
A fact: phones only ring when you've given up on them ever ringing again; as soon as you realize someone has cut the phone line and is likely peering at your skinless body through the window shade, once you've begun to concoct escape routes in your mind, that is when the phone will ring. Another fact: when my voice answers, it will glide smoothly over the sounds, letting the anxiety slip away, no skin to hold it in. I'm never worried on the phone. Not with this person. Not out loud.
The person who calls me always forgets about time zones. Where she is, it's only a little late for a phone call; she imagines me wrapped in a sweater sipping lemon tea by the window. She imagines me in a larger apartment, with more rugs, wearing the skin she bought me. She's never been to visit me.
Sometimes, she just wants to hear about the me she imagines, the me that works in an office and makes money and buys rugs. Sometimes, we talk about her. I prefer this. I make the same silvery sounds every time, no words, just mmms and uhhhs that seem to comfort her. She is going blind, and the lightest touch on her back feels like fire. Sometimes she cries: horrible, nighttime cries that embarrass me and make me wish I were wearing my skin, or at least a robe. A secret: I've never visited her, either.
A fact: I write her twice a week, pasting on the stamps I think she will like best. Scooby Doo, Mount Rushmore, Saskatchewan. Another fact: I'm pretty sure the stamp is the only part of the letter she can see. She never writes back. There is always a nighttime phone call the day she receives the letter. I ask her what she thought of it. Tell it to me again, she says. I want to hear you say it. I keep mailing letters; she keeps calling.
A secret: I've started going outside without my skin. She would be mortified if she knew, but she is blind, a thousand miles away. My body wraps around lampposts and slithers beneath parked cars on the road. People stare, but I don't mind. My tongue darts between my teeth, tasting the wind. I've taken to twisting my limbs among tree branches, waiting for people to walk by so I can drop my face level with theirs and hsss.
A fact: I write in my letters about the office she imagines, describe my cubicle in detail so she can see it. I tell her about a tiff with my boss, how it made me mad but not too upset because I know I was in the right. I tell her I've bought a new rug. It's blue, I say.
When I send her a letter and she doesn't call the night she should have received it, I quiver on my smooth sheets, waiting. Finally a call, not from her. She's gone; she's left her skin behind.
When the package arrives, I untie the cord carefully and remove the packing peanuts. Her skin tumbles out, wrinkled from the journey, worn soft like river rock. Saggy, empty. I slip inside of it, trying to fill it out, but it's too small in parts and baggy in others. My fingers only reach the wrists, and my stomach presses snugly against the navel. It itches. I take it off.
I lay her skin down on the bare wood floor, spread mine on top, matching the elbows, pressing together the toes, brown hair mixing with brown hair. Opening my sewing basket, I pick out my blue thread and a thick needle. Curling my snake body around the two skins, I stitch them together using small, even stitches like she taught me. When I'm finished, I bite the thread to cut it.
A fact: the phone never rings at night anymore, but I've placed the rug made from our skins beneath it, just in case. A secret: I like to think she could call some evening, knowing the time for once, but unable to wait until morning. I'm here, she'd say. I'm at your front door.
A secret: I sleep on that rug instead of my bed. It's softer than my sheets.
A fact: I'm going blind. I keep writing letters anyway, mailing them in the dark.
currently inhabits a small town in Indiana, where she divides her time between writing and teaching college students about writing. Her work has appeared in various publications, including Southword Journal
and Stolen Island
. She holds an MA in English with a concentration in creative writing from the University of Maine.