Barnacles by Ari Koontz
There is a small, secret bump on the palm of my right hand that nobody knows about but me. It’s invisible unless you squint, untouchable unless you know what you’re feeling for. I am not sure whether it is a scar or a half-formed pimple or a deformity maintained by a couple persistent skin cells, but it has been there as long as I can remember any part of my body being there. Perhaps even longer. I get the feeling that this is something I should be worried about or ashamed of, but it’s just a tiny bump, and I find myself seeking it out every so often with my thumb--just to make sure it is still there.
When I go to the beach nowadays, I spend most of my time on land: scrambling across rocks, peering into tide pools, picking up bits of kelp and threading the rubbery strands through my fingers. I used to be a total water kid. I wanted nothing to do with the sand and sun, instead spending my time bobbing up and down with the motion of the waves and seeing how long I could hold my breath. Now, though, I tend to want to keep dry. So I sit just at the edge of the ocean, on a rock or piece of driftwood, and trace the jagged edges of barnacles still wet from low tide. There’s something familiar about these tiny bursts of roughness that reminds me of a loose tooth, that makes me think of bodies and the parts of me that are not really me at all. Where do you draw the line between foreign and intimate? Do barnacles know that they are separate from the logs that hold them?
I would like to think of my body as an ocean. I imagine that would make a lot of things easier--my fear of drowning, my constant staring into the mirror. I would like to touch a palm to my hand and feel the soft curve of myself interrupted by something that cannot exist without me, that cannot be known by anyone else at all.
Ari Koontz is a queer non-binary artist with a degree in creative writing from Western Washington University. In poetry and prose, Ari grapples with identity, truth, and the sheer beauty of the universe, and is particularly fascinated by birds, stars, and other forms of light. You can find more of Ari's work at http://arikoontz.com or follow them on Twitter @paigerailstones
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