by Fahad Rahmat, 3.24am May 10th 2021
When I met my husband, he was the most beautiful man I’d ever seen. He was very gentle with me when he spoke because he knew how I felt about him and his skin. His body was covered in a thin aluminum layer that creased and shimmered. Band-Aids and wraps webbed his arms and legs where he’d been grazed by the sharp objects that littered his life, but the cloth never covered up how vibrant and magnificent his skin was. He’d seen me stare. He knew what he was doing to me and I know he loved it. I always had questions for him – some I asked in the most polite ways I could:
“Do you have blood? Or…sweat?”
I’d asked that over drinks one day, setting down a pair of rum and cokes for us. His head snapped around to find the voice and he smiled and said he did, but that he bled and sweat underneath the foil. I bought him drinks for the rest of the night and didn’t say anything else to him about it. It became enough for me to watch him and talk about everything that didn’t matter. I wanted to wait.
Some questions I never asked him because I never knew if I wanted to know the answer: “where did it come from?” My heart couldn’t handle if it was anything but the truest version of him. That’s what I wanted. That’s what the silver was to me. Even thinking about the routine of plying his skin with the foil was pathetic and cracked my crush too much. I wanted the romance of him being born swaddled in metal to be true.
When we kissed for the first time, he told me to be gentle.
“Don’t bite my lip,” he said, holding my face with one hand and caressing my jaw with the other. I was very good for our first kiss. I played by his rule and it was tender and lovely and was the exact kind of memory we would have put in a photo album if we’d been able.
Being the most beautiful man I’d ever seen only sustained us for so long before I needed more. I tried to be sly: when we held hands, I rubbed my thumb over a single spot on the outside of his hand to see if I could flake some of him off. He got wise to what I was doing before long and stopped holding my hand. I apologized and he was gracious about listening to what I had to say. It became another of so many nights that we didn’t go to bed angry.
Then I was explicit. I lit candles, poured him wine, turned on low music. I put on his favorite Smiths album and I held his head in one hand and stroked his jaw with the other when I asked him:
“Can I scratch you?”
In the moment, he stood up, unfolding himself from our spot on the couch and walked away without saying anything. I heard the tap running in the bathroom and I heard him breath shallow and through his nose. I knew he cried over his skin and I saw two thin streaks that were reflecting the candles brighter than the face around them. It was later that night when I was pulling off my shirt and pulling on a pair of loose workout shorts to sleep in when I felt his hand on my back and heard him say,
I turned and asked him if he was sure. I’d still never seen him without bandages and wraps streaking his skin and almost couldn’t even see them anymore. He said he was and he offered me his forearm. I slipped into bed and while sitting, kissed the inside of his arm. I tugged on his wrist and rested his arm in my lap and breathed in the color and smell of the metal. His eyes were wide and light brown and, in that moment, wider and more pleading than I’d ever seen them before.
I pushed my index nail into his skin and dragged a jagged line along his thin veins. He inhaled loudly and gave a loud, breathy moan as my finger dug the silver skin out. I’d left a trail that doglegged towards his elbow and saw a trail of skin underneath.
I didn’t know what to say. My husband clasped my hands and kissed my fingers and said, “Thank you.” I was bewildered and he started peeling the bandages and wraps off his body and for the first time, showed me his whole self. He was magnificent as ever. His whole self shimmered like the first time I saw him. The lines and scars that spidered across his body failed to undermine how resplendent he was, standing at the foot of our bed, vulnerable to me for the first time. In the next months, he let me scratch him once a night. Every time, he shuddered and moaned - some nights, he was flush and sweating; some nights he screamed and panted, and every time, he labored to catch his breath and shakily, with ragged words slipping out of his slack mouth, he thanked me.
One day, he asked if he could scratch me. I looked at his arms and torso, which were patched with his skin and his silver. I said we could try it and he took my wrist in the same place I’d taken his months prior and pulled me close. He pressed a nail into my skin and pulled. My arm stung and I snatched it back. I saw blood welling where he scratched me and I heard panic in his voice,
"I’m so sorry!” he was breathless and exhilarated. I felt my heartbeat in the cut and told him it was fine. He lifted my arm to his mouth and pressed his lips to the cut. Before I could stop him, he’d raised my arm to his mouth and licked clean the river of blood that pooled in the crevice of my elbow. With his ruby red lips, he asked me how I was and became his old, gentle self: wide, peerless eyes searching my own for answers he felt he couldn’t find from what I said to him. I told him I was fine and that if he wanted to do that again, I’d be okay with it, if he didn’t cut quite so deep or quite so long.
One day, I realized that we were down the last streak of silver on my husband’s body – a rich silver vein on his back. I studied it with prospector eyes. This last streak spanned his shoulder blades and trailed a craggy, forked path. It was like lightening trapped on the surface of his body, with thunder about to crack any moment.
I consented to being scratched first and with a needle and the gentleness of his that I’d come to love so much, he pricked my arm just below the elbow and dragged a lazy spiral. Small blood droplets followed the needle point. We kissed. Deeply, slowly, biting each other’s lips. His mouth was warm and tasted like rust.
When it was my turn, I lay him on his stomach and looked at the silver in his back. I never found the utensil that worked for me – I didn’t want the distance they brought. I rubbed my hands over his back and circled the line of silver. With my middle finger, I pressed into his skin and pulled. It all came up in a single stroke. My husband trembled and started crying.
When I raised my hand, he rolled over and I looked at him for the first time, without silver anywhere on him. His eyes were wide and brown and his face streaked in tears. His skin was soft and dark like mine. He had small, bristle-like hairs on his arms and legs and longer, spiraling ones on his chest. I asked him to stand up so I could check him again for any last stitching of silver. There was none left. In that moment, I didn’t know what had happened. I kissed him and felt something missing.
He stayed the same. His manners, his voice, the way he loved me stayed the same as I changed. The fall out of love ended like a clap of thunder that shook the small apartment we had. After a lot of talks and questions where the answer stayed: “I don’t know” or “it’s just…different,” I was suddenly outside, with my husband at the door, looking stormy and magnificent saying his goodbye. When I saw him angry, his skin shimmered in faint gold, but only the right light and never beyond when the anger in his eyes subsided.
Then he was gone. I turned away from the closed door and rolled up my sleeve. I touched lightly on the patch of silver stretching out around my elbow. I gathered myself and left to look for someone to share my truest self that I could.