And so began the period I lived under a sheen of your cum. It dried clear like egg on my skin, and I woke you up to tell you that, because it seemed such an irony. You touched it with your hand, noted the texture, then let me read to you until you fell back asleep. In the mornings, you went to work, and I would stand on the porch looking at the mountains of Mexico just beyond the border, brushing my hand against my chest, watching your cum flake off me like dried skin. Like dead pieces of myself, I called you at work to tell you, which you thought was unsexy, depressing even, although I tried to explain how much I liked it, how I’d intended to shower but here it was midafternoon and I’d made the bed and washed the breakfast dishes and had even driven to the grocery store, where I’d touched apples and bumped up against a man buying rice in bulk. Excuse me, I said, and I thought of how I had you, dried on my breasts.

That night you said, I want to be inside you, but I said no, on my back this time. When you flipped me over, I stared at the wall until I felt it, first drip, then rush, and then with your hands as you smeared it across the expanse of my back. In the morning, while you showered, I sat on the bathroom floor, and we played twenty questions through the curtain. Bigger than a walnut? I asked. You peeked your head out from the shower, saying, no, sixteen left, and I continued asking questions, grateful I didn’t have to think about anything too hard. After breakfast, you went to work and I stood on the porch, smoking and drinking coffee, looking at the mountains of Mexico, rolling my shoulders over and over to feel your dried cum break on my skin. Like a glaze, I told you when you called me from work. A glaze cracking over the clay that is my skin, and I wish you were here, I said. I would stand in front of the mirror and you could stand behind me with another mirror, and I would look at my back, the tattoos already inked there and now the dull, clear glaze of you cracking over my skin.

I wish I was there so I could fuck you in front of a mirror, you said, but when you got home that night, I said, no, on my shins this time, and I knelt down in front of you to help. When you were ready, I got up, lay my legs across your lap and waited, smearing it with my hands from knee to ankle. After, you made dinner, and I stood on the porch in the darkness, drinking dry red wine that leeched moisture from my mouth. The wind blew against the new texture on my shins and blew also a red dust onto the porch. The dust, I opened the door and called to you. Because even though when we moved in, we spent a cold Saturday sealing the windows with plastic, it was always there, the dust, coating the windowsills when we woke up. It stuck to the soles of our feet when we walked barefoot through the apartment. We washed them—or rather you washed my feet and I washed yours—each night before we climbed into bed. From the porch, I called out to you again and this time you came and stood in the doorframe. My shins, I said, are my bones and your cum and now the dust that comes tumbling off the mountains in Mexico.

After dinner you said, I want to be inside you—but tiredly—and I said, no, more wine, and then I want you to do my knees and my thighs, my elbows and my wrists, the bony rim of my clavicle, the ridge of my ear. Don’t stop, I said, don’t stop and eventually, I will use you to leave the porch, to walk down into the street and the dirt, which is the ground up earth of Juarez and El Paso and a million other places and, also, the ground up bones of a billion other people. It’s not depressing, I said, when I saw the worry flash across your face—all the time and death out there that clings to my skin, which flakes off it.

But it is cowing, and I need you.

Maryanne McLaughlin

Maryanne McLaughlin

Maryanne McLaughlin is a writer in El Paso. She likes when it rains.
Maryanne McLaughlin

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