I had planned to write an entry about this week's progress, except… Well, there hasn't been any. I did do some research on the whole publishing thing, but didn't like my findings. I would estimate that I'm about 75% to 80 % done with my book, not including editing. According to the various guides and articles I read, apparently memoirs should be completely finished, edited and proofread before submitting anything to a literary agent or a publisher.
So, instead I hope you enjoy this rather detail oriented chapter while I go wallow in a pile of how much I have to do.
Skin is one of those things we don't notice, something we take for granted. I could go on like a biology teacher listing all the virtues of this amazing organ. I'm not going to do that. I am going to talk about the skin that I knew better than my own... Ali's.
I find that time after time when I think of Ali, I try to think of details. Almost all of them have to do with her skin. It's something that triggers pretty much every sense. It's something that's featured in every memory, one way or another. Figuring out where to start is the hard part.
To say that Ali had fair skin is like saying the Mona Lisa is a painting. It's a blanket statement, something general and uncaring. I find that I'm tongue-tied, battling with myself trying to describe it, trying to properly portray not how it really was, but how I saw it. Here's a story:
In Darrington, the sun rises a few hours after dawn breaks. It takes the fiery globe a long time to make its laborious ascent up the backside of the mountains that protect the town. Ali and I had spent all night entangled with each other, intoxicated on ourselves. Drunk on the fact that we managed to find each other. We didn't want to sleep, there was so much to do and say in those hours to ourselves. Eventually the sky began to light up, but there would still be a long while before shafts of sunlight struck the house. Ali got up, I don't remember why, it really isn't important. She stood before me naked, her long hair smooth and tame. She put her hands behind her head and stretched, back arched.
In that moment, in the soft glow of the predawn light, she was an ancient Greek goddess sculpted in alabaster. She radiated the soft light coming from the window not unlike the moon. Tiny freckles had begun to show up on her arms and cheeks from the attention of summer, freckles that would later fade in the coming of fall.
Her skin was a road map and a record of where she had been, and what she had gone through. White scars crisscrossed her arms and legs. Thin markings recording every bad day she had had, every taunt she had endured, every emotion she couldn't express before meeting me. One was the shape of a paperclip, a monument of a battle fought coincidentally on the day that we first instant messaged. In idle moments of closeness, anywhere from the seconds before sleep, to waiting patiently at the doctor’s office, I would trace the outlines of these headstones of anguish with my limited mobility. I would feel the faint rise and coarseness of the scars on her otherwise soft skin, and I would imagine the circumstances that led to its formation. I would picture the moment in gritty detail, and swear to God I would do everything in my power to never let another one of these mar her.
Ink had first been injected into her skin when she was just 16. Ali had a way of asking you for something she wanted repeatedly until all of your will to resist her broke down. She had performed just such a trick on her mother to give her permission to get her first tattoo. Ali was one of those people that "got" tattoos. She understood that they weren't just pretty pieces of art, they were there to tell a story. You endured the pain for what could be a mediocre doodle because it meant something to you. Doesn't really matter how it comes out in the end, although obviously good art is desirable. Before we were parted, Ali had no less than six tattoos, and every single one of them described a piece of her.
A lot of people have a scent, a certain odor that lingers with them. Either naturally, or through religious use of some sort of perfume or aftershave. Ali's scent was dependent on what "phase" she was in. My time with her can be broken up into different eras. Be it the "doll era", the "makeup era", or the "punk era"… each one had a different scent associated with it. The most vivid and persistent of all of these was from the "Lush era". Lush is a kind of organic/homemadey soap, shampoo, and other hygiene type products company. They made a body powder named Karma. It's what I would imagine a orange grove plopped down in Bangladesh might smell like.
Ali used to baptize herself in this fragrant powder after every shower, and it would completely fill the room she was in for hours. At the same time, it wasn't really overpowering, it just sort of radiated out from her like a diffused aura.
I don't know if they still make it anymore, but I have a single can of it left over. Like many of Ali's favorite things, I've adopted it as my own now, and will use it sparingly on occasion when I feel strong enough to tease what's left of my soul with her scent. Remembering is a prized commodity, but it can also be torturous.
Her skin also had a taste. No, this chapter isn't going to get any raunchier than it already has, but it's a fact. It was a sort of non-taste. It was there, it was present, but similar to water. It also had the same sort of nourishing effect on me. Like my body was dehydrated, and completely devoid of love before meeting Ali. I was withered, and weak from the deficit. Almost immediately after tasting Ali's first kiss, my constitution bounced back. Whatever switch in my brain controls the desire to thrive got toggled on, and my health quickly returned to me. The parallels to every fairy tale that's ever resolved its conflict with a kiss were not lost on us. We used to say we were in the luckiest, and we weren't wrong.
Although this section has been short, it's been a rather laborious affair. Dredging up such specific and detailed memories causes a kind of mirage effect to my brain. The past few nights I have fallen to sleep with illusory images of Ali's face, scars, and freckles just out of reach. I understand that this may have seemed perhaps a little indulgent, maybe a little bit sappy. Hell, maybe this whole book is. But I think a story is nothing without details, especially this one. We're all just wrapped in details.