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"Third Party Skin", short story excerpt

Monday 7/20/20

The first boy I loved was named Peter Langway. What’s weird about love is that when you’re able to understand it, if you ever get to that point, you may realize that the most you ever felt what love is was when it didn’t exist at all between you and someone else. It’s really a third party. A third party you want to meet up with someday, in the form of another person. Someone else just helped to give you an idea what to look for.

Peter liked to watch swashbuckler films. He said his father was a Portuguese. He was a sailor. But I don’t think he knew who his father was. We dueled with curtain rods, and one day out came my eye, like a cherry on the end of a toothpick. Cherry dipped in snow.

I still thought I loved him after, when my parents had said I could never talk to him again. I wanted him to know I trusted him, that I believed in accidents. You have to believe in accidents for accidents to exist. You have to decide that they are for you. Or else you probably never end up moving forward as much as you should.

I took out the fake eye and I put it in his hand. I said that I was no different than I had been, we were no different. He kissed me where my eye had been, and I felt his tongue against the lid.

When I was married, my eye was my heart. I took it out, and I said, “I can see that we are different now, much has changed, but we are a family, I can see a way forward, if I have you to see it with me.”

My father did the yeoman’s work of packing me up from that house. We left the kitchen for last. If a kitchen has a place in a batting order of the game of how a home is left behind, consigned to the past, or the future of someone else—same difference, perhaps—the kitchen would hit ninth. All of the other rooms/batters need to go prior, or else you might stop. You might run.

Bedroom can be second-to-last. Double clean-up, as they say in Little League. I feel like there’s a sex component in there—all of the debauchery while you tried to make the kids, the extra times you fucked when you were spent and glad you did, discoveries you made, about someone else, about yourself, the bodies behind bodies. One clean-up wouldn’t be enough. Monster spill on Aisle 2.

“What do you think is going to be behind my eye?” I had asked my father, back at the hospital. I wanted to add, “tumor with a root?”

I’d been looking differently at the world. I saw how much a chipmunk was like a lizard. Their musculature. Look how meaty a lizard’s tail is. The back of a chipmunk is that way. The sheen of their coat resembles a lizard’s skin. I started to believe that they originated from the same species.


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