It’s tough not to pick when you get a good starter. I’ll be talking with someone and only after I notice they keep getting distracted by the claw I’m making with my left hand do I stop picking. Rather than disfiguring myself to cope with social anxiety, I’m shamed into drinking myself dizzy: a far more socially acceptable solution.
When you get a good piece of skin peeled up and it doesn’t hurt in the least it’s hard to stop. You can finagle all you want and lengthen the strip, peel it back, unveil the baby skin below—revel in numb static.
It has been a long time coming. The ribbony skin is now thickened and a little yellow. How much lighter you’ll be with it gone; how much more you’ll be able to write without needing to pick after every sentence. It was becoming a nuisance. My hand would bunch into a ball during every pause throughout my writing sessions like it was cowering from the world.
A month has passed and my writing hasn’t flowed the way I expected it to. In fact, it’s been difficult putting the simplest sentences together. My picking has had no end: the upended skin has traveled from my thumb, up to my arm, and to the rest of my body. I’m nearly all baby skin and, basically, a baby. My cocktail party chatter has suffered since I can no longer hold my alcohol, or stand up.
The final patch of adult skin is located on my scalp—just below a wisp of grays that could look blonde in the right light. Partygoers think this is cute because when I compulsively pick, it gives the impression I’m thinking really hard.
“Oh, baby genius!”
“Widdle philosopher baby!”
“Watchu thinking about, baby? If you got a teeny tiny face?”
I feel compelled to slap them over the head with my myriad of publications; to remind them I am a thinker, I am a writer, and I deserve respect. But I’m miles away, too busy picking the last of it. Plus, I’m sleepy.
Since scraping the last scrap of adult off me, I’ve gotten used to the toddler’s life of leisure. No longer am I bothered by philosophical notions, nor am I anxiously compelled to meet a daily word quota. I’m free. Life is a lackadaisical recognition of bodily functions: I’m tired, so I sleep; I’m awake, so I play; I’m hungry, so I eat. My wife will bathe me sometimes. Since I’m a clueless baby, I’m not sure if I get a bath every day or every week. It tends to all blur into a confusing, joyful existence.
For some reason, I was consumed with tears when a cardinal landed on our windowsill. Goo ga ba, I thought as my wife held me.
I’ve seemed to become an adult overnight. My skin is no longer pink and shiny—it’s ready for the world’s barbs. I’ve also relearned how to speak and stand and write: the words flow easily, now that I’ve got my hands back.
If I notice the smallest flaw in my skin, the tiniest crack or scrape, I ignore it, remember the cardinal, and leave it to heal.
My wife and I pose in our swarthy silks, tailored and groomed before the astonished guests at Sylvester’s. She shows me off to her envious girlfriends, and they remark how much I’ve grown while staring for an extra beat. I thank them over my club soda, fumbling with a piece of tin foil in my pocket.
Rich Glinnen is a market researcher by day and a writer by night. He enjoys bowling, and eating gruyere with his cats at his home in Bayside, NY. He was nominated for the 2017 Best of the Net Anthology.
Rich says, “To me, “Hiatus” depicts a character who has a break in their identity caused by social anxiety. It’s a story of collapse and of rebirth, of coping, of hope.”