There’s a kneading in my chest, a drawing out, a punching in, a folding over. I’m not quite sure what the end result is meant to be (and I’m doubtful it’s worth all the commotion). My lungs are doing their best to press on despite the surrounding churn, thin breath in, thin breath out, a constant battle against diaphragm.
Shoulders are corded tight, ratcheted two clicks past comfortable and tugging up toward my beleaguered neck. They too, appear to know something I don’t.
It slithered in from somewhere, maybe alongside that dream last night with all that frantic dismemberment and panicked swipes of fingerprints. Maybe it came in as I drew away from the present and slid toward the past without shuffling my thoughts into order first.
It’s refusing to answer questions in any case.
This feeling is the one that wants to consume everything in sight. Fill all bodily cavities until there is no room for churn or movement or tightness. There is only the sturdy counter press of repletion.
It always passes, sliding out of my skin and into another’s without any pattern or cause. In the meantime, this mound of flesh I call ‘mine’ will continue to jitter and jolt its way onward, desires and motives entirely opaque.
I walk into my wardrobe each morning and select my meat coat.
It barely takes me a minute. The bones and sinews of my hand reach toward the well worn coat in the middle of the array. Like the others on display, it shines pale in the cool light of the wardrobe – amphibiously pale, as someone once pointed out, though sadly lacking in mucus. It is somewhere in the middle of the other meat coats, heavier than those that are more wetsuit than meat coat, but less bulky than those at the far end.
The meat coat I choose bears more signs of wear than the others. Faint tan lines around the neck and shoulders, a spatter of freckles at the elbows, slightly better skin from all that moisturising. I should really moisturise the others more often, but the topography of even the thinnest coat is tricky without a body inside it. Every time I nick this meat coat, I faithfully replicate the slice on each of the others, and pay close attention to ensure the healing scars match. Wouldn’t want to cause a scandal.
My mother, of course, thinks I’ve made a foolish choice and should swap my current coat for a lighter one, one that doesn’t come with a range of risks for disease and ridicule. My mother and brother are both wearers of leaner coats, tan skin taut over veined muscle. I can see her bite back words of worry when she looks at me, when she spies the lack of gap between thighs, the lip of belly, the softness beneath chin. She doesn’t always manage to bite back successfully.
This meat coat comes with a lack of expectation. It doesn’t play the game that the thinner coats would have to play, and isn’t a target for the flak that the heavier coats would receive: it is happily on the sidelines. It comforts rather than threatens, and it remains invisible to most. It feels safe.
I’ve never worn the thinner coats. I wonder if I would feel like a child wobbling in high heeled shoes. A newborn colt, suddenly exposed to the world’s gaze. I’ve crawled into the meat coats at the far end, the ones that don’t like to move, their softness both comforting and claustrophobic.
Venturing out without a meat coat is the greatest taboo, of course. But I thirst for a morning where the meat coat I choose is of no consequence. It signifies nothing. Holds no import in comparison to the person it covers. That isn’t how we work, of course. We constantly seek a reflection of our insides on our outsides, uncaring of whether it actually is a reflection or not.
If the world were blinded, it wouldn’t be long before those with the sweetest voices were sanctified.