Breaking Skin

This story comes to us from Christine in Golden, Colorado. The story is summarized in one sentence by Christina: “Sometimes it helps to have input from those you love when deciding on a long-term mate.”

Here is her story:

I’ve always been baffled by mate selection. Dating only worsened my befuddlement. When I was a teenager, I meticulously interrogated my older brother before he got married. “How do you know she’s the one? That it’s going to last, and be good for the long run? That you won’t meet someone in the future who you’d rather be with?”

He answered with a decisive confidence—something my more hesitant nature would never feel as strongly towards anyone. But despite my ambivalence, I did discover I had one reliable litmus test.

He and I were both living in Boulder, Colorado, at the time. I had grown up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, but had moved west in 1994. In late August 1997, we packed our bags and flew to Michigan to see my family. And, unbeknownst to him, it was also time for him to undergo the Test.

I didn’t know what exactly would count as him ‘passing’, but I knew how other potential mates had failed. The guy in penny loafers and a trench coat, trying to keep up with me while running through the sand at P. J. Hoffmaster State Park under the floodlight of a moon. Perhaps to make me slow down, he started performing some of John Cleese’s infamous Silly Walks. Laughing, I joined in, but I silently agreed with Her disapproving whispers curling on shore.

Another first visit by a college boyfriend: he looked out across her blue-gray expanse like he’d already seen her many times before. His poetic ramblings about other places and adventures drowned out the barely audible swishings of beach grass etching half circles in the sand.

In 1997, Colorado guy walks ahead of me through the tunnel of trees, towel thrown over his shoulder. Once we are on the beach, I cock my head, watch his eyes map the shifting blue terrain as he settles his bare feet into the warming sand.

The waves are high enough to body surf, and bring in assorted detritus. As we stand up to take a break from riding wave after wave shoreward, he grabs something brushing against his thigh. After a slow second or two, he finally registers the fading, drawn features of a dead 2-foot-long lake trout. I laugh at him and pat the water with my palms, sending lit droplets onto his chest. Chuckling, he quickly drops the carcass back into the water and watches the dark body bob, resting like a skin on top of the water. He reaches for me with a half-gloved hand, scales glittering. Our bodies sway as families of waves rhythm towards shore—my lake mother, Lake Michigan, nodding.

Thanks for the lovely story, Christine!

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One Response to Breaking Skin

  1. Beautiful piece, Christine! This is the test…
    Brought back memories of the Dunes and Lake Michigan.