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A Treatise on Eczema


Eczema is my body communicating with me. Eczema wants to know why I’m walking around in someone else’s sun while a thousand books go unwritten. Face growing unshedable second skin, cracked as the earth, chapped like bearded lizard, which is essentially what I’ve become: splayed out on a warm rock that was given to me. Dehydrating under a heat lamp. Here I can do whatever I like, espouse whatever conspiracy theories I want. I can pick at myself and examine the strips of flesh that come, monocle in eye. I can scream or remain silent. I can bless or curse. As long as I stay on this rock, the eczema lizard king, I am the master of my space. Never mind that it’s shrunk to encapsulation. Never mind that listening is an active act. Never mind. Eczema is my mind nodding in agreement (this is fine, we can make this work), building a fort out of books in the living room and coughing inside of it until the air runs out. Not reading the books, just suffocating with words. Names. Tolls for thee. Ishmael. Here is the cradle. Sancho. Pontius.  Never mind never mind.

Eczema doesn’t want to have sex. My inner thighs are chapped, rubbed raw through jeans I probably haven’t washed enough, a blotter pad of the surface of my skin imprinted in the fabric. My junk a lacerated chunk of meat stuffed inside an old balloon, waiting to burst. Unappetizing even to a Siberian tiger who has not eaten in three weeks. Eczema wants me to be alone, to hoard me for itself. Eczema wants to build a cocoon around me like a second mortgage you don’t need but is forced upon you. You’ve been convinced that new cabinets are needed even though the old ones are perfectly functional. Eczema agrees. Eczema is agreeable as long as you stay away from the light, from the leering eyes of strangers. Stay home and scratch it off, scratch it off like a lottery ticket. What will you win? A third, then fourth skin. A granite body impervious to wind and sleet. The feeling of song muffled through you and then silence, deep unforgiving silence entombed with the ancients. The horror of molting without emergence: I become a sarcophagus like the one I saw at the museum, on my first ever date, holding hands with a girl I did not like much because I could already feel it happening then, the eczema, the tomb. It’s not fair for you to fall in love with a mummy. She laughed and pecked me on the cheek but I wasn’t joking.

You can have me, eczema. My resistance is spent. Build a fence. Build a big wall. Build a gargantuan wall and repel, repel, though that’s secondary to ensconcing. Eczema wants me to remain in stasis. I’ve been sufficiently corrupted. It’s time to cease. I peaked at eight, when eczema first appeared, groveling at my feet. The pediatrician gave me a cream and my body rejected it. I believe you. You aren’t a disease. You are the reaction to the disease. I’m ready to be better. I concede. Be my final permutation. Be my Fly—I cannot travel through space and time doesn’t listen. Punish my hubris. Shut the tomb. Leave me mute.

About the Author

Alex Simand lives and works in San Francisco. He holds an MFA from Antioch University Los Angeles. Alex writes fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. His work has appeared in North American Review, Hippocampus Magazine, Mudseason Review, Five2One Magazine, Drunk Monkeys, and other publications. His short story, Election Cycle, was a winner of the 2017 Best Small Fictions Prize. Alex is the former Editor for Blog, Nonfiction, and the Diana Woods Memorial Prize at Lunch Ticket. Find him online at www.alexsimand.com or on Twitter at @AlexSimand.