“My husband is dead in my arms. I carry him and he feels the same, his skin and hair, the shape of him.” Melissa Goode doesn’t hold back in “Skin Hunger,” today’s New Voices story. Jacinta is grieving in the parking lot of the hospital when Chris finds her, at the end of her rope, desperate to feel close to another human being. Read on.
I have read the need for human connection is regulated by the hypothalamus, the same part of the brain as thirst and hunger. (Related Google search: Can you die from not being touched?)
At Mercy Memorial, the examination room walls are paper-thin. A man in the next room tells the psych registrar that he will top himself if he doesn’t get the money today, the seventeen-thousand dollars his brother stole from him.
I wrap my hand across my forehead, a reflex, holding a migraine. I rush from the examination room and the security guard at a computer in the hallway calls, “Wait for the doctor!”
I keep going. A nurse stops me as I leave the secure area. She has me sign a form.
“This is at your own risk,” she says. “You can’t leave and say we did anything wrong. That we neglected you.”
I sign on the line and say, “You are blameless.”
In my car, in the Mercy Memorial parking lot, I rest my head on the steering wheel. I whisper-sing The Cars, ask who’s gonna drive me home tonight.
The rapping on the window wakes me. It is day.
“Are you okay?” a woman says.
My head is fused to the wheel. She gestures for me to wind down my window. I turn the ignition and press the window button.
“Is there someone I can call for you?” she says.
My husband’s cell number is ready to trip from my tongue—it has been disconnected for more than a year now. It contained the emergency 999 and I knew that, but now I know it.
“No,” I say. “There is no one.”
“I can’t leave you here,” she says.
I straighten, pressing my spine into the back of the seat. “You can. I’ll be okay.” I point at the rose tattoo on her neck. “Fuck. That must have hurt.”
“Everyone says that. Are you sure you’re okay?”
I give her a thumbs up and she walks away. I slump forward and press my forehead against the wheel. Radiohead plays and Thom Yorke sings, pleads for no alarms and no surprises.
To continue reading “Skin Hunger” click here.