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They always covered up the parts they hated most. Stretch-marked thighs and blemished skin, but now they had a bigger problem. It started as a pimple just above their belly button. Overnight it multiplied and darkened. So they told no one and drew a line around the patch of miscellaneous rash, hoping to track its every move. After it conquered the stomach it turned to the chest. Panic came in short breaths. They frequented the bathroom to look at the foreign body and occasionally scratch it.
This could be deadly, or contagious. So they booked an appointment with
Google Doctor. The search was “dark red rash on stomach.” The results were distressing. Images of worst-case scenarios—pus wounds, dengue fever, ringworm. Overwhelmed by the amount of graphic close ups of afflictions that could be theirs. Terrified at the thought that this might not only be permanent but could eventually inhabit every part of their body. The urge to peel off their skin and run away was very real.
Dressing up used to be the highlight of the night, now it felt like facing work on a Monday. Red flecks and white scabs was not the aesthetic they were going for. This narrowed the range of options. No mesh, no singlets, no white at all in case the weepy skin bled through.
The second look was good, colours matched and their butt looked peachy, but they couldn’t get the image out of their head—
A cutie walks past in the club, eyes on them, until they see the arms and shoulders spread with dollar-sized rings of scratched up skin and sidles away into the crowd of people getting down to Rihanna—
So they played it safe with a long-sleeve and a pair of old Jordans.
Friends asked how their day was. Itchy. It was all they could think about. Conversations rolled into the next as they fought the urge to stick their hand down their pants and scratch like a fucking maniac. Raw… so that pricks of blood soaked through the fabric and dried black. The relief, tinged with a mild pain, was satisfying enough that it took priority over seeing friends, or getting another beer. The doctor prescribed steroids; the naturopath, more vegetables. No real answers, just half-assed treatments wasting money.
The uber arrived with the anxiety. They knew it would be awkward, that moment, when all the clothes were gone and they stood staring at each other. Ready to explain the red blotches on their neck that spread out like continents on a map.
“You can’t catch it from me don’t worry.”
The thirty-second pause as the other person decides whether they still want to have sex lets the doubt seep in… maybe if they bang from behind so they don’t have to look at each other? If only they were drunk enough that they didn’t care, but then they wouldn’t remember either. The birthmark flares up when they are nervous. They are definitely nervous. But no more or less than the last time they had to drunkenly explain it to someone else they wanted to fuck. The other person moves towards the door, closes it and turns back. The light stays on as they pull and scratch each other closer. They stroke the birthmark, “it’s actually kind of beautiful.”
Art direction and styling by Kate Baxter and Emilie Marschner.
Photographed by Lekk Porter.
Writing by Emilie Marschner.
Thanks to Jac, Molly, Emma, and Eden.