Untitled Obsession Piece I byAdina Applebaum

My brother and I had a joint secret, a ritual that took place in my father’s basement home office during after-hours. We would sit, cross-legged, on the somewhat sticky, graying sheet of plastic that was placed atop the floor so my father could roll around on his office chair. More than anything else, I remember the feel of that plastic. I remember my brother’s face, and I remember the way we used to pluck the tacks off my father’s office bulletin board and use them to pull the skim off the bottoms of our feet.

First it was just the dead skin, or so we claimed. I dug the tacks in not-too- deep and then made small piles, collections, by the sides of my still-unshaved legs. You could see the pattern of skin, the faint lines of fingerprints, if you held the sheets up to the light. Within days, we dug deeper. I remember feeling surprised at the blood, and surprised that it hurt less than I thought it would.

Our parents woke up in the middle of the night one evening and discovered us there, legs sprawled and a pile of skin placed between us like a trophy. “Don’t do that anymore,” I remember my father saying with emotion I couldn’t read. He hardly every showed emotion. “Don’t do that.”

But we were confused about why, the next day, the tacks had to be packed up and placed on top of the kitchen refrigerator where not even my parents could reach them. There was elation in discovering what our bodies would let us do to them, a quick transition to un-surprised at the sight of one’s own insides. Years later, memory stepped in to heal the self through the cannibalistic consumption of pain: more than anything else, I remember the feel of that plastic.