I have always looked down my nose at the phrase skin and bones, and at all other clichés too, as descriptions rubbed free of meaning and power by over-use. Well, hell, that’s what a cliché is, after all: The thing one dredges up when not inclined to do any thinking at all before speaking.
And yet, damned if it isn’t that awful cliché that forces itself into my head when I catch sight of myself scurrying bareassed by the mirror out of the shower.
Skin and bones.
Oh, sure, there are still some stringy muscles in there, and tendons, but for the rest, begorra, I really am mostly bedknobs and broomsticks. My armature is all too clearly visible: the cup-and-ball joints, the long bones, the ribs, the clenched-fist-like outcroppings of hip and shoulders.
Yep. Skin and bones.
Interestingly enough, I have quite come to like my Cancerland silhouette when I am wrapped up in clothing. I seem, as I think I have written already, sleek, in that graceful Fred Astaire way. Lately, I’ve been wearing a tuxedo vest over a tight-fitting t-shirt and jeans, imagining that the outfit gives me the amazing triangular figure of a matador. (The things we tell ourselves, huh?)
Off-the-rack clothes were made for the scrawny, it turns out. If I can find the right ridiculously small size, things look really spiffy on me. No bursting at the seams down the front of a shirt, no stray fat caught in the buttoned-up neck, none of those diagonal lines of fabric pulled too tight.
But when I am unwrapped, as I have been saying, then I can hardly bear to look.
Not all Cancerlanders are so reduced, of course. But a lot of the men tend to be, for some reason: They seem assless. Seen from behind, the seats of their pants might be empty pillowcases.
Some of the Cancerland ladies are like that too: desiccated, shriveled, pipe-cleaner constructions.
But then others of us are bloated, seem to have beachballs under our sweatshirts and -pants, are damn near globular. Does this have to do with what kind of cancer we have, what treatment we are getting, or just who we were back home? Or perhaps all three?
Summer will be coming soon, and I love the water, but cannot imagine being poolside or at the beach without a shirt. My legs aren’t so bad (at least so I think; old men’s legs are often like barkless branches anyway) but my chest…my chest is such a sad wickerwork now, a very poor basketweave construction of knotted reeds. Maybe what I’ll do is get me one of those scuba-diver second skins of dark rubber. That way, I’ll look like a trapeze artist, instead of emaciated.
As for presenting myself starkers to a woman similarly buck nekkid, for the purpose one usually associates with those get-ups…I believe my only choice is to be on the look-out for a rubber fetishist, so that I can wear my diver’s second-skin in the boudoir too.