There is a someone–or rather, a something–that has accompanied me on every journey. Yet, I have neglected to share that something’s story. I regret this, and I feel that it is time I acknowledged my poor skin. It’s been patiently waiting for its story to be shared.
My skin has strayed only a few times from the Rust Belt of the United States; that strip of land between lake and river sacrificed for American industry–for automobiles, airplanes, and railways. It knew different versions of this old place: Michiana, the Allegheny side of Appalachia, Green Mountains, and a Windy City; but versions hold similarities. My eyes are used to farms atop filled-in coal mines and the rusted mills where that coal was sent. My ears have always heard gun shots, demolition derbies, and the slow hum of tractors. My nose is accustomed to bonfires and summer sweet corn. My tongue knew goulash, halupki, pierogis, pepperoni rolls, and homemade maple syrup. But, my skin–my skin has felt many sensations.
My childhood skin was dirtied by red clay and horse dander. So, too, it was caressed by Midwestern winds on holidays and summers. It split open somewhere on the way to Idaho, and it made me cry. From a young age, it was poked at and occasionally cut off in minute portions, destined for laboratories and reassuring results. In France, it floated in chlorinated pools and splashed into wartime waters. It welcomed warm sunshine at the tops of Smoky Mountains and Glendalough. Later, it knew the sticky humidity of southern Indiana and the impossible viscosity of Zanzibari air. It bathed in salt water in the Indian Ocean and it bristled in freshly thawed water of Lake Champlain. After, it shivered in a frigid urban jungle on Lake Michigan. Finally, my skin now struggles to keep its composure in the dried-out pans of Owambo. The so-called ephemeral rivers have not arrived, and unfulfilled promises of rain grant my dermis no relief.
At times, my skin longs for temperate climates. It was not born in the desert. It does not belong here. Reminders of this fact come in the form of fungal rashes, sun damage, mysterious insect bites, and a dryness unknown to anywhere else it has been. Every nick and cut becomes a painful recovery process. A pimple popped becomes a crusted crater. The skin of my scalp occasionally produces snowflakes so that, I suppose, Namibia might share in that meteorological phenomenon. And, the skin of my toes has abandoned its post; replaced by a gnarled, hardened excuse for its old self.
Definitively, my skin has known more comfortable times than the present. Nevertheless–most importantly for me–its story continues.