She had an unnatural aversion to the horizontal. Which led to the usual things of course, insomnia, awkward sex but there were less obvious effects too. She never laid anything on a table, she never slid across wooden floors, she never enjoyed anything flat. The scope of her seudo-phobia was narrow enough that even people who knew her pretty well weren’t aware of it but it’s not like there weren’t other things.

She was sometimes compelled to get very close to the skin of complete strangers. She dedicated a considerable amount of time to it. There was just the very smallest thrill of violating someone’s personal space. She had discovered a few good places to do this. Riding up an escalator is a very good place to examine the elbow, standing in line at a bakery or in a crowded elevator you can review a person’s neck below and behind the ear.

She had the perfect alibi. A person was expected to stand very close to another person in these situations. She would spend 3 or 4 hours riding the escalators at Woodfield but only about 1 out every 5 rides or so was a good one. Where she would be able to see anything. The weather had to be hot so that people were in T-shirts. This all sounds more creepy than it actually was.

If possible she would take a picture with her phone. Pretending of course that her subject was really some distance off. Afterwards she would sketch their wrinkles and inconsistencies in her notebook. It is weird to continue to think about a person’s skin like that she knows, she knows, but it felt complete to capture what she saw. She would draw them until the wrinkles, once alien and unsettling, became banal. Like a piece of burlap worn soft by rubbing it continuously between the thumb and forefinger.

She had a few of these notebooks. Black ones with smooth vanilla paper and an elastic strap to keep them closed. The notebooks were left about in her room. No neat piles. Two or three under her bed. A couple that had slipped between her bed and the wall and now the pages were gradually getting rolled under the little wheel at the bottom of the leg of the bed frame. Some note books were lamp stands. Some were layered between shirts in a pile in the closet. Only rediscovered when the pile itself shifted. Like a fossil re-exposed through plate tectonics.

Keeping these notebooks was the most gratifying thing that she did, which made keeping them feel intensely real to her. Her friendships never had the same sort of wonderful on demand intimacy. It was a hit and run relationship of course but having gotten away with being so close without any risk of exposure was intoxicating.

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John McAlester

Adventure dad, writer, Content Strategist @canirank

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