Cheryl Leibovitz and Lauren B. Flax

Leibovitz R to Flax

Cheryl Leibovitz
Created using Lauren Flax’s triptych (below) as inspiration

By Lauren B. Flax

I. Scars

These disruptions on your arms and forehead, behind your knees, and under your chin, lines smooth and white, hairless, sweatless, are like the skin of a newborn. Injuries packed away in fibrous tissue become invisible in the dark.

Were you pushed over the hood of a car, pushed off a bike, pushed through broken glass? What is it that your skin remembers in those smooth interruptions?  I remember falling on gravel, falling on concrete, falling under the calloused fingers of a splintered man.

Keep the lights off: it is not that I don’t want you to see my scars, it is that I do not want to see yours.

II. Tattoos

We mark the occasions with pictures. Portraits, flowers, stars, and symbols tell our version of the story, etched a fraction of an inch below the skin.

It starts with a million little wounds. Paint and blood mix as we are broken, over and over again. The skin is slick and raw, the colors bright, and we walk away with our wound wrapped in plastic. It oozes and bleeds for a few days. Then it is art.

Now, look: a tattoo is just close enough to the surface for everyone to see, and just deep enough to be permanent.

III. Wrinkles

I will be as wrinkled as the skin of a rotting peach one day. Laughing, smoking, crying and so much talking will drag their tracks across my face, but the most important parts of the body are born wrinkled and rolled.

Those creases that will someday overtake my whole body are not just markers of what has been, but what is yet to be created. Everything that is made is made from the memories in the skin.

This is why we come together: for the skin to tell all of the stories we don’t yet know how to tell.


Leibovitz_Flax I

Cheryl Leibovitz
Inspiration piece provided to Lauren Flax

By Lauren B. Flax

When I was twenty-three, we lived in an apartment that had only one window, a vertical slit in front of the refrigerator that looked out onto the corner of the building across the alley, and across Hanley Street to the all night diner. There was an attorney’s office above the diner, and next to it, a store that sold vacuum cleaners and sewing machines.

I had been sitting alone in the kitchen, as I did on many evenings, looking out the window at the people coming and going from the diner. My wife had fallen asleep in the rocking chair in the living room with the baby on her chest, and the television muted and flickering.

It had rained all day, a steady autumn rain that brought the leaves down from the trees, and now just a mist hung in the air, catching the lights of the few cars that passed. The stoplights glowed in the damp night, and the crosswalk signals pulsated softly red and silver before changing. Walk. Don’t Walk. Walk.

A man and a woman were standing in front of the diner. I couldn’t see her face, but something about her looked older than me, maybe in her thirties. She wore an expensive looking tan raincoat, slacks, and high heels. Her hair was swept up onto the back of her head in a shape that reminded me of a conch shell, and a few tendrils of blonde hair fell around her ears and the back of her neck. She seemed almost like she didn’t belong in this town. The man was about my age, but I didn’t recognize him. He was tall, with short dark hair, a black t-shirt that showed his tattoos, and jeans and work boots. I wondered how they knew each other.

They had been standing a few feet apart, having a conversation for a while now. It had to be close to an hour; my beer was nearly gone, and the bottle was warm in my hand. She had been standing with her arms folded at her chest for most of the conversation. He had his hands in his pockets, and periodically kicked at the ground with the heel of his boot. An ambulance drove by with the lights flashing and the siren off. Both of them turned to watch it pass, and I could just hear the crackle of the tires on the wet pavement. My window was barely eight inches wide and it was supposed to open with a crank, but it had been broken since we moved in. The landlord promised to fix it, but for months the crank had been stuck, and as it always did, it caught the edge of the refrigerator door as I got another beer for myself.

The woman was talking again when I sat down. Her hands moved quickly in font of her like pale little birds. Even in those high heels, she barely reached the man’s shoulder.  I am not sure if she was very short, or if he was very tall. It was hard to tell from the angle I was watching them. Now she didn’t seem to know where to put her hands. She reached them in her pockets, then withdrew them, clasped them in front of her, and finally snapped them back into place, folded across her chest. A breeze caught the stoplights and they bobbed on their wire. Walk. Don’t Walk. Walk.

At first I thought she might be his mother or aunt, and very young looking, but they were standing at a distance that didn’t seem right for family. She would gaze up at him occasionally, and then back down, quickly. A few times, he caught her gaze, and held it for a moment. She hugged her arms in tight. The stoplight changed from green, to yellow, to red. Walk. Don’t Walk. Walk.

She was gesturing again as she talked, and he was watching her, like he was trying to read something written across her cheekbones. He stepped in closer to her, and her hands started to move more quickly, birdlike, and in closer to her body. He reached one arm around her back, took one hand to the back of her head, and kissed her. Her body was stiff for moment, the birds still. She did not know this touch. I saw her body soften against his, and she reached her hands up to touch his neck. On her left hand, a diamond flashed in the light from a passing car.

I think he was the one who ended the embrace. He pushed her gently away, like he was setting a fragile figure on a shelf. A few tendrils of her hair fell down the back of her neck. He smiled, said something to her, then turned and walked back down Hanley Street. Her hands weren’t crossed at her chest anymore; they were wrapped into fists at her heart. She was leaning forward, her head tilted up toward the place where his face had been. Then, she straightened herself, took her hands to the back of her neck, and twirled a fallen piece of hair back into place. Her hands folded back across her chest, and she turned and walked in the other direction, up Hanley Street.

My beer was empty, and the windows of the diner were fogging over. I heard the baby stir in the living room, and as I stood in the doorway, I watched her settle against my wife’s chest. Walk. Don’t walk. Walk.

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