Monday, November 21, 2011

The Memories We Hold in Our Skin

I'm lying there, on a table, in a dark room, nothing but my underwear on and a blanket over me. I think So this is what it feels like before an autopsy. 

"You're not claustrophobic, are you?"

"No," I say with my eyes closed.

But before I finish the sentence she is already wrapping a piece of gauze around my head, my hairline to be exact. She begins slathering something cold on my face. It's thick, like meringue, and some of it gets inside my nostril. I may not be claustrophobic but I do like to breathe.There are pieces of vegetable put over my eyes, the dogtags of a beauty parlor, and another hot, damp cloth put underneath my chin. She leaves the room. It's time for me to bake, to set, for my souffle to rise.

I haven't done this in a while, I tell myself, to justify the cost of something in my heart I feel is a waste of money. I will age and most likely not very gracefully. But, I tell myself that it's my skin and I haven't done anything for my skin in years. I neglect my skin, abuse it, forget that it is my largest organ, that it is my threshold, the culmination of layers and layers that keeps me of the living from me of the dying. It's the cloth I keep my bones in, the walls that hold my muscle memories together.

When she comes back in the room and peels off the mask, I can feel my face breathing for what feels like the first time. My face is a landscape of mini geysers erupting, breathing, every pore is awake. My cheeks tingle in the same way on a damp LA night, while walking along the DWP's Griffith Park Light Festival, when the godson I am holding reaches over and kisses me with a wet open mouth,  the way all kids kiss before they learn to pinch their lips and aim.

The tip of my nose feels cold, like a surprise I discover when the steam from a hot coffee shared with a friend while walking down a deserted Broadway warms it, makes it damp, and I think My nose is cold! never realizing it's been out there uncovered in the world leading the way my entire life. Of course it's cold. Probably tired, too.

Or my brows, where I keep my emotions, unfiltered, a sign I wear on my face if I am open or closed for business. She scrubs hard around those places, perhaps because we both acknowledge the fine lines forming, both a sign and promise of stress to come. These areas tingle less, more like circulation rather than breathing. There is blood flowing there, an energy now moving, the same way I feel my stomach turn warm after a hug from Mike that lasts longer than a usual hug, the kind of hug that is a hold, also a promise that he's not going anywhere and he'll be damned if I am either.

"You're all done!" she chirps and then rattles off a list of products that I absolutely need in order to keep my face fresh, to keep my face breathing, to protect my skin from the elements, from the world, from life.

The bill comes and I know I will not buy any of these products. In a few days this glow will fade and I will be kicking myself for spending the money. But maybe it was worth the release, worth the time and money for a space and a ritual that wasn't just about trying to erase some of the footprints of the past years but to remind myself of the memories held sacred in fine lines and hyper-pigmentation. To open those pores, clean them of "the elements," and make space for more. 


daleboca said...

so nice

Lindsey said...

Thank you! The holidays are coming. Getting all reflective :)

Carmen said...

this is beautiful
yes, you kick yourself for spending the money, and yes, it is also worth it to treat yourself

Lindsey said...

Thanks, C! xo