Short Story: Moulting, Shedding Skin

I am looking down at my feet. I’ve removed the bandages. They look like a soft palette of mesh and skin. The left foot is moulting. There is a patch in the shape with no shape. Its edges are whiter than the rest of the skin and they are slightly rolled up like peels. I reach down and start peeling away. The skin lets go easily. With each piece I free of my foot, I look, at the texture, at the translucence, at the aloneness and then flick it away for the wind to blow.

I raise my eyes a little and observe the green in the compound. I raise them further and observe the trees that barely shift at the busts of wind. They are huge. Tall. Lonely. Old. Unmoving.

Over the duration of 20 years, they’ve beaten, lulled, caressed, as they grew towards the sun. The trees believed. The trees kept going up. They kept hoping. They kept pushing. They kept refusing to be stuck under the soil. Yet here I am on these steps, looking at my moulting feet. Thinking about this unending year. Thinking of the plans I made, and the time that made dust of them. Thinking of the people I met and then walked away from.

I remember her. When her eyes were the morning sun. Filled with the hope of the dawn. Her voice that had as many question marks as there was magic notes. Life was the tree 20 years ago.

Then I walked away. Time drew me into her brush strokes. The dark, the green, the faint, the sharp and the smooth. By the time I found myself back in her space, her eyes were the moon. The light was not her own. The voice had grown deep and critical and untrusting. Someone was thinking for her. Someone had remained and provided soil. She had pushed up.

I look at my moulting feet.

It feels nice sometimes when I peel some of the skin away. It is painless as it is fascinating. A few weeks ago five nurses and doctors pressed and turned and coaxed the veins on this foot to appear. My foot was defiant. Even if one vein had been spotted here, it was missing the next minute. It was hide and seek. Painful hide and seek for each attempt meant a needle pierced my skin. Yet here I am, removing skin over veins that bare themselves without an iota of pain. My skin is shedding itself. Telling me to forget.

I get up to walk into the house. I can see the distant road from here. Cars looking like toy cars going back and forth. Red toy cars. Blue toy cars. Yellow toy cars. White toy cars that look like taxis. I was in one recently. Going further up. I was going to see her. I carried a pair of boxes of diapers. New life was uncontrollable and messy. A burp here. A fart there. A liquid fart there. New life was not as smooth and as easy as pouring olive oil on a plate of fries. I went to see her, then I had my bandages on. Yet I had to. It had been a month and if more time had passed, I would never have forgiven myself.

She was beautiful. Unthinking. Only feeling. Only experiencing. Crying when she needed milk or warm hands or sleep. Smiling like a reflex when a new voice was in the room. Or a face. She had smiled at me. I don’t know whether she knew why but I was glad she had. I wasn’t a stranger, I told myself to believe.

I turn and look once more upon my moulting foot and think of new life and old life and how the two sometimes hold together for sometime until put apart forever. However maybe that doesn’t really happen. Maybe old skin never really sheds off. Maybe its why I keep remembering the girl with the moon eyes. And how she changed. And how if I had stayed longer she would have had sun eyes.

Maybe I think too much of myself. Maybe the new girl wasn’t even smiling because of me. Maybe she couldn’t even hear or see me. Maybe I was still a stranger. In between old and new. Trying to be accepted, wanting not to be forgotten. Like this shedding, this moulting skin.

Photo : hujanen53 | Flickr


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