by Eleanor Stewart
I once knew a girl who wrote on her arms.
Even if there was paper to spare, the pen would always find the soft skin canvas to etch on. The words were always large, in thick ink, in red or blue or black. The first night I met her, her arm read:
ACRYLIC & GLUE in large, curling letters.
Because I want to paint with them, she said.
She laughed nervously when she said it.
I thought she was sweet and vulnerable. Different from other girls I’d met.
A week later, after I’d slept with her, we went for a drink.
THE SEAGULL read her arm.
It’s a play, she said. By Chekhov. I need to read it.
You’re so interesting, I said.
But felt a pang of resentment in the pit of my stomach.
Not long after, and in an upmarket restaurant no less, her arm said:
I was angry at this.
What does it mean? I said.
I don’t know, she said.
I knew that she did know, but wouldn’t say.
Later: MATCHES IN THE DARK.
Cover yourself up, I said, pressing my jacket onto her shoulders. I was so ashamed. She was wanton with her feelings. She was uncouth.
But these are just my words, she said.
I don’t care. I said. Cover them up. People are looking, people can see. Have some dignity.
MAYONNAISE was the last straw.
Do you think that’s terribly cute and charming? I said, and my face was hot.
I don’t think that, she said.
What are you trying to say? You’re strange, do you see that? You’re strange. No one else in the world feels the need to write messages on their arms. Who are they even for?
They’re just for me.
No one responds to them. And I’m ashamed. We’re done, we’re through. Wash your arm, for God’s sake, wash your arm.
I returned home furious and flung open the door of the fridge. I wanted something to get my teeth into, something substantial, something real. There was ham, there was cheese, but looking through the condiments I noticed
that we had run out of mayonnaise.