I didn’t even notice them at first. Then I realised I had seven or eight tiny wounds – for want of a less significant word – on my body. Fingers, forearm, torso, thigh. Not nicks from blades or splinters – I am not a carpenter or a DIY enthusiast. I can only think they are from scraping against the normal machinery of everyday life – doorways, window latches, milk bottle tops – and my skin punctured. Nothing alarming, but I can’t trust my skin any more. It is become weak, a liability.
Living in this condition is fraught. Everything is suddenly a threat to my biological integrity. I worry about each object around me: will it break me? split the skin that holds me in? dissolve the distinction between insides and outside? Will it cause me to bleed?
Despite my efforts, the small painless wounds multiply. In patches, my skin looks like cracked ice, a desert road, torn tissue paper coming unstuck like a child’s collage. I am obsessed. I stare at them constantly, trace the red-stained cracks with my bloodied fingertips. It is a new measure of time, and the only one that counts, counting down to my entire body being covered in this punctuation.
Everywhere I go, all the time. At home I undress and note the new ones, chart the extent of the growing splits and wonder if there is anything that could help me. At work, I do not work, and my colleagues are become more distant than ever. I am tetchy, preoccupied, I don’t even try to find the right volume for my voice, whether complaining about the noise or attempting to engage in productive conversation. Do they see my skin? I see their contempt. They say I am over-sensitive, and I think that I could not be anything else.
This is the story I wrote en route to and at The Story 2016.